Scrutiny for his every move.
McIlroy lost his No. 1 ranking -- and briefly lost his composure -- by missing consecutive cuts at two big tournaments at The Players Championship and the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, where frustrations boiled over to the point that he tossed a 6-iron after an errant shot.
Both instances drew criticism from the media.
And McIlroy gets just as much attention off the course for going to Italy after The Players Championship and to Paris for a day after missing the cut at Wentworth to see his girlfriend, tennis star Caroline Wozniacki.
"Last week, I threw my 6-iron on the 12th hole, and I didn't think it was that big of a deal," McIlroy, who turned 23 earlier this month, said Wednesday. "And then I wake up the next morning and it's all over the papers in the U.K. And I'm just like, 'Oh, my god.' It's just one of those things, and it's something I'm going to have to deal with and learn how to do."
Luke Donald, even though he has been at No. 1 for all but two months of the last two years, doesn't face this kind of constant scrutiny. Even so, he remembers what it was like to be 23 and seeking to find a balance between a girlfriend and golf and everything else that goes into trying to be the best.
"You can't blame the kid," Donald said of McIlroy. "But he's obviously realized that, and it looks like he's trying to focus on practicing a little bit harder and getting back to what he does. It's a tough game. Certainly for me, from a personal standpoint, if I don't put the work in, I'm not going to get the results. Rory sounds like he's got to that point where everything has been pretty easy up until this point, and he's come into a little bit of a bad run of form. This game does that to you.
"It's a fickle game, and it's tough. You've just got to work through it."
If nothing else, McIlroy's recent struggles have served as a wake-up call for the Northern Irishman.
"When you've went on a run when you've hardly finished outside the top five, and then all of a sudden two missed cuts, it's more of a shock than anything else," he said. "Just a little bit surprising, and it's something I haven't really had to deal with in a while, and I just have to knuckle down and figure it out and get back to the way I was at the start of the year."
He can only hope the Memorial this week is the start of another big run.
Most of the game's best players are at Muirfield Village, a popular spot because Jack Nicklaus is the tournament host and a good location on the schedule with the U.S. Open at The Olympic Club only two weeks away.
McIlroy added the St. Jude Classic next week as he tries to find a form that suddenly went missing.
"I just feel like I need more rounds," he said. "These two-day weeks aren't really that good for me."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.