Rory McIlroy fires back at Nick Faldo

GULLANE, Scotland -- An irritated Rory McIlroy took issue with comments Nick Faldo made this week, saying the three-time Open champion should "know how hard this game is" and that his lackluster play this year is not due to a lack of effort.

McIlroy, the No. 2-ranked player in the world, has seen his form slip in 2013 after he signed a lucrative new endorsement deal with Nike and switched clubs. Along the way, there has been a high-profile withdrawal from the Honda Classic and a split with his management agency. And no victories.

Faldo, who won six major championships and twice at this week's Open Championship venue, Muirfield, said you "need 100 percent concentration'' and full days of practice and preparation.

"You have a window of opportunity," said Faldo, who works as an analyst for CBS and the Golf Channel. "That's my only words of wisdom to Rory. You have, say, a 20-year window as an athlete. Hopefully when you retire, 40s, 50s, hopefully you have 40 years to enjoy it. So just concentrate on golf."

McIlroy, in a pre-tournament news conference Wednesday morning, responded.

"I saw what he said, and he said I should be at the course 9 to 5. I actually was on the range at 6:15 and got out of the gym at 6:15, actually a 12-hour day compared to his nine-hour day. It is what it is, and Nick should know how hard this game is at times. And he's been in our position before. And he should know how much work that we all do put into it."

Faldo, 56, is playing in the Open this week as sort of a farewell to competitive golf. He has not played in a tournament since the 2010 Open at St. Andrews.

Notorious for his work ethic and honing his swing, Faldo won the Open at Muirfield in 1987 and 1992 and is the last Englishman to win the tournament.

McIlroy, meanwhile, is enduring endless scrutiny because of his struggles this year. The two-time major winner was not a factor at the Masters or U.S. Open and missed the cut in his last tournament, the Irish Open.

"It's life,'' he said. "You're going to go through highs and you're going to go through lows. It's just about trying to work your way out of the lows. Yeah, I haven't played my best golf this year, but I've showed signs that it is there. It's just a matter of trying to do that more often.

"It's been difficult to try and explain why I'm not playing well or why I haven't had the results that I've wanted over the past six months. But I know that I'm working on the right things and I'm staying patient. And I know sooner or later, it will turn around and I'll play the golf that everyone knows that I'm capable of.''

Later, McIlroy said: "The thing I think is, 'What's the big deal?' I haven't had the best six months, but … it's OK. I'm fine. I've got a good life. It doesn't bother me. I'm in a good place. And as I said, I'm working hard. I feel like I'm working on the right things. And sooner or later it will turn around and I'll be lifting trophies.''

McIlroy had never seen Muirfield prior to his preparations for the Open and has now played six practice rounds over the past two weeks. And he described the state of his game as "promising.''

"I think that's the word,'' he said. "It's promising. It's definitely heading in the right direction, and I'm excited for the next few weeks, obviously starting here, and then a great stretch in the states with Akron [the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational], PGA [Championship] and then all the FedEx Cup series.''