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brennan's brief If Rory McIlroy uses his head as much as his swing he might find his way back among golf's elite

Rory will be 32 in May, the best golfing years of his life are easing past him

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Rory McIlroy has suffered has suffered a disastrous dip in form

Rory McIlroy has suffered has suffered a disastrous dip in form

Rory McIlroy has suffered has suffered a disastrous dip in form

So the whispers are growing louder. Rory McIlroy needs to change his caddie, or his coach, or both, if he wants to get back to World No 1.

McIlroy begins to defend his status as ‘the Players Champion’ at Sawgrass in Florida tomorrow morning. He won the richest event in golf two years ago, and since last year’s tournament was abandoned after one round, the Holywood man comes into the biggest competition outside Golf’s Majors with a massive spotlight on him.

You see, Rory has fallen to 11th in the world. For most Irish sportsmen or women that would be a phenomenal achievement. For a man who was once No 1 and hasn’t won a Major since 2014, it’s not so phenomenal.

Rory will be 32 in May, the best golfing years of his life are easing past him and he doesn’t seem to be able to arrest the slippage. For behind him are coming a new breed, who hit the ball farther than he does, and whom Rory does not seem to have the course nous to beat on a regular basis.

Patrick Reed is 30, Bryson de Chambeau and Justin Thomas are both 27, Jon Rahm is 26, Collin Morikawa is 24, Viktor Hovland is a year younger.

All bar Rahm and Hovland are major champions already, and no-one doubts but that the two Europeans will soon follow the four Americans into earning that status.

But Rory seems determined to take them on – head on. Witness his seven at the par five sixth in Bay Hill last Sunday when he attempted to drive all the way over the lake as de Chambeau had done the previous evening, and would do again the following day. It ended in two splashes for Rory and the end of his challenge for the win too.

That’s where the caddie comes in. Harry Diamond is a good friend of Rory’s, but is he able, or does he feel able, to say to his man: “Boss, I don’t think you should go for that shot.” It’s what a professional caddie does to stop his man getting into trouble. Yet does Rory want to hear that from Harry?

And what about his coach Michael Bannon, whom Rory has not seen a lot of in the last year, understandably, because he is mostly based in America and Michael is in North Down.

Rory did have a session with Butch Harmon not so long ago, just to freshen things up.

But to this outsider, it is not Rory’s swing that is the problem, it is his continued choice to go for shots that have only a 10 per cent chance of coming off. They look great when they do, but prove disastrous when they don’t.

The Masters is coming up in four weeks time, Rory’s annual chance to become just the sixth man in golf history to complete the career Grand Slam of the four Majors. That’s how good Rory is.

The great cyclist Eddy Merckx was once asked how he had won so many races. “By using my head as much as my legs”, he replied. Substitute ‘swing’ for ‘legs’ and Rory could be on to something there.

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