Jack Nicklaus believes Rory McIlroy is just suffering a temporary blip and will be fine by the time the Masters rolls around in April.
The 18-time major champion offered his backing after McIlroy walked off the course during the second round of Honda Classic, where he was seven over through eight holes.
He initially told reporters he was “not in a good place mentally” before issuing a statement citing a sore tooth as the reason behind his withdrawal.
The Ulsterman has made a dreadful start to the 2013 season, missing the cut in Abu Dhabi before crashing out to Shane Lowry in the first round of the WGC-Accenture Matchplay.
“Rory is so talented,” Nicklaus told NBC Sports.
“He’s a good kid. I think he’s a little frustrated, and he’s frustrated at himself right now.
“He’s probably not playing his best, and he also has a set of golf clubs that he’s having trouble getting used to, and one sort of plays off the other.
“He’ll be fine. When the Masters rolls around, he’ll be fine.”
McIlroy admitted at the start of the week that his troubles stemmed from his technique, rather than his new clubs – an assertion supported by compatriot Graeme McDowell.
“Everyone is saying he can’t do it with Nike equipment. This game is an extremely difficult sport, especially when you start playing for other people,” McDowell told www.irishgolfdesk.com.
“To me it is not equipment, it is all technique and a little bit of belief inside his own head. He will be okay. He’s a young and talented individual.
“To me he is not swinging the club the way he was late summer last year. but he’ll get over it.
“He is one of the most talented players I have ever seen and once he starts believing in himself again he will be back.”
McIlroy will be desperate to taste victory at the Masters, having suffered a painful final-round collapse in 2011.