McIlroy has gone through this before. Only a year ago, he had gone five months without a win and missed the cut in four out of five tournaments. With a spark at Firestone, he showed up at Kiawah Island and overwhelmed the strongest field in golf in ways only Woods used to do.
"I love proving people wrong," McIlroy said.
Ian Poulter's advice was everyone to "give him a break."
Poulter tied for third — by nine shots — last year at Kiawah Island and has watched the fall of a kid who looked one year ago that he would be on top of golf for a long time. Now it's back to Woods and Mickelson at Nos. 1 and 2 in the world, with the kid trying to claw his way back.
"I think sometimes we forget how young he is and what he's been able to achieve at a very early age," Poulter said. "So the second he feels comfortable again, whether that's with his swing or equipment or whatever it is, then Rory will be winning golf tournaments. That natural swing of his doesn't just disappear overnight."
Despite all the scrutiny — on everything from his new equipment to new management, to girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki and moving from Northern Ireland to south Florida — McIlroy hasn't dodged the questions for which he has no tangible answers.
"I'd definitely rather be up here talking about more positive things, but I guess that's the way it is," McIlroy said. "Should you lay off me? That's not for me to decide. I'm here and I'm answering your questions and that's all I can do. As I said, it would be nicer just to sit up here, talk about some more positive things. But the way the year's gone, it's understandable why I'm not."