"Is ego Rory McIlroy's biggest rival?"

In a provocatively titled post--"Is ego Rory McIlroy's biggest rival?"--McIlroy beat writer Brian Keogh provides a longer than normal dose of his wisdom and takes a hard look at the state of Rory McIlroy's game.

Some might view this as over-analysis, but considering the time of year, what's at stake in the next three weeks and the potential for a career setback, I think the dissection of comments and actions is appropriate.

Patently ill-prepared for the start of the season following an all conquering end to the 2012 campaign, the two-time major winner is playing catch up.

Despite what his girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki has described as his almost obsessive love for the gym, the Ulsterman’s work ethic is as sporadic as that of most 23-year olds we’ve met. He’s no Vijay Singh, no Pádraig Harrington and certainly no Tiger Woods, which is probably a good thing in many ways.

He’s not Darren Clarke either, though being told by Woods to get his finger out puts him in the same league bromance-wise. Remember the note Woods left on Clarke’s locker when he lost 4 and 2 to the Dungannon man in the Accenture MatchPlay final at La Costa? “Enjoy it you fat f***.”

What appears certain is that McIlroy is not enjoying it too much right now. The attention he has received since he upped the ante by signing hat multi-million dollar deal with Nike has not helped. The burdens that come with being the anointed one - the expectations, the media intrusion, the constant criticism - have increased exponentially and he’s plainly struggling to deal with them.

And following some revealing comments on Tuesday's Houston press conference, Keogh couldn't help but wonder if the whole No. 1 thing was a disaster for McIlroy and he'll be better to be a pursuer again.

“I guess at the minute, yeah, with me trying to get my game back to where I think it can be,” he told a news conference. “You know, it’s nice to just go — not just go about my business and no one cares, but you go about it and not be, I guess, the most talked about person in golf.  It’s a nice thing.”

He hit balls at a public course in Miami last Friday, wearing shorts and carrying a pencil bag with a Manchester United logo, just like any other 23-year old golf nut. It was almost a cry for a life more ordinary, for normality, for a few hours at least. An escape from the fuss.