RORY McILROY admitted he's been playing "brain-dead" golf for the past two months after a horror first-round 79 at the British Open left him mentally battered and bemused.
McIlroy plumbed fresh depths in a year of discontent as he plunged into a share of 134th place on eight-over par with Nick Faldo, who stepped out of a TV commentary booth this week for his first competitive event in two years.
Shockingly, the world No 2, even putted off the green and into a bunker as he racked up a six at Muirfield's 15th hole, one of two double-bogeys on a card which also included six bogeys and two birdies.
At the end of play last night, McIlroy wallowed 13 shots off the pace set by first round leader Zach Johnson after a sweet 66 by the steady, though unspectacular US Ryder Cup star.
"It's nothing to do with technique, it's all mental out there," McIlroy confessed when asked about his spectacular loss of form so soon after dominating world golf last year.
"I just need to concentrate, obviously," he added. "But sometimes I feel like I'm walking around out there and I'm unconscious.
"I just need to try to think more. I'm trying to focus.
"I can't really fathom it at the minute. It's hard to stand up here and tell you guys what's really wrong."
He cited that putt off the green at 15 as a prime example of the mental errors he's been making. "That was just thoughtless," admitted McIlroy. "It's just so brain dead.
"Seriously, I feel like I've been walking around out there (on the golf course) like that for the last couple of months. I just don't quite know why but I'm trying to get out of it."