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|Question marks for Faldo over McIlroy
MARANA, Arizona (Reuters) Golf fans are eagerly anticipating the next chapter in the growing rivalry between Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods but former world number one Nick Faldo has doubts on either player achieving his best this year.
Faldo said McIlroy made a "dangerous move" in changing his club manufacturer earlier this season while he believes 14times major winner Woods can never return to golfing dominance without regaining a "goto shot" to use in pressure situations.
Northern Irishman McIlroy, who won his second major title by a record eight shots at the PGA Championship in August,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], switched his club brand last month from Titleist to Nike in a lucrative deal reported to be worth as much as $250 million over 10 years.
"Rory went from rookie of the year to world number one with the same equipment and now he's changed absolutely everything which I know,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], from personal grief, is dangerous," sixtimes major champion Faldo told Reuters.
"Once I heard the news, I tweeted it was a dangerous move. It's risky because it's all about the feel and sound of the golf ball, it's the feel and sound of the putter face, it's the feel and sound and the torque of a driver."
Faldo, a threetimes British Open champion who now works as the lead golf analyst on television for CBS Sports and Golf Channel, said that even very similar brands of golf clubs would feel very different to a player who had switched manufacturers.
"Factually yes, you can get really, really close but feelwise, soundwise, no,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], not even close," the 53yearold old added while shaking his head. "You get a millisecond at impact and you've known exactly how that sounded and reacted before.
"People say, 'Oh, Rory can adapt,' but why should he be adapting at this time in his career? He might just waltz through and it's all fine. Or you may even say, 'Hey, whatever his goals were before, he may have made them a little more difficult.'
"Feel is confidence in this game. That's your feedback and that's your trust. As Rory found out pretty quickly, he announces there are 14 new clubs in his bag and after one round of golf the putter's out,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], because it's different."
McIlroy made an inauspicious start in his first event with Nike equipment, missing the cut at the European Tour's Abu Dhabi Championship last month when he ditched his new putter after struggling with it in the opening round.
"You've got to have real selfbelief," said the Englishman who was arguably one of the most driven players ever in his quest to reach the very top of the game.
"Whatever shot you're trying to pull off, you've got to have the belief it's going to work. And if it doesn't . it'll start sewing those little seeds of doubt in your mind and those seeds grow and they can end up as oak trees in your head."
Woods used to intimidate his rivals with his dominant golf and immense selfbelief but all that changed for Faldo after the American's spectacular fall from grace at the end of 2009 amid revelations about his extramarital affairs.
"It's more than three years since the crashandburn in his personal life and I personally think he has a lot to deal with there, right from when it all happened," Faldo said.
"In golf, you have to be completely engrossed and free just to go out and practise 100 percent. There's nothing worse if you then get distracted for good reasons or bad reasons.
"If somebody is in your ear or you are worried about something . it's much harder to have that peace of mind."
Woods clinched his 75th PGA Tour title by four shots in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines last month but he dropped four strokes in his last five holes in blustery conditions mainly due to wayward driving.
"When he's on (form), he's fabulous . but there are certain shots on the golf course he's struggling with and he showed us at Torrey he's still struggling with them," said Faldo.
"I don't think he has yet what we call a 'goto shot' and you've got to have that one when literally, if someone puts a gun to your head and says, 'Right, hit me a fade,' you can aim down the left edge of the fairway and it peals back.
"If he really sorts that out, he could be unbeatable but that (doubt) may be starting to engrain itself in him."
"You can't say it's impossible but I am leaning towards no," said Faldo, whose own work ethic came straight out of the Ben Hogan manual.
"I don't think it will happen. Getting five more (majors), that's more than a really,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], really fantastic career (for most players).
"It's a big climb after how he has shaken himself up mentally,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych]. The biggest thing is how Tiger must look at himself in the mirror and wonder what happened. It's a lot to deal with."
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