Rory McIlroy hit back at Nick Faldo yesterday after the six-times major winner told the young Northern Irishman earlier in the week that he had to devote more time to golf.
McIlroy has had a troubled season after changing clubs at the start of the year following the signing of a lucrative deal with Nike, and he was clearly irritated by Faldo's comments.
"He said I should be at the course nine to five," the world No 2 said on the eve of the 142nd British Open at Muirfield. "I actually was on the range at 6.15am [on Tuesday] and got out of the gym at 6.15pm, a 12-hour day compared to his eight-hour day.
"Nick should know how hard this game is at times and he's been in our position before. He should know how much work that we all put into it."
Englishman Faldo, who turns 56 today and is playing in the Open for the first time in three years, hinted on Monday that McIlroy was spending more time than he should on off-the-course activities.
"You have a window of opportunity, that's my only words of wisdom to Rory," said the veteran, who now works as a television commentator. "You have, say, a 20-year window as an athlete - concentrate on golf, nothing else. Hopefully you have another 40 years to enjoy it so just concentrate on your golf."
McIlroy acknowledged that Faldo was not trying to unduly criticise him. "He probably said a million other things in that interview," said the 24-year-old. "He obviously said something about me and that's the thing that's been picked up by everyone.
"I know how these things go, I know he wasn't trying to get on my case at all. He was just offering words of advice in some way. [But] I think he has to remember how hard this game can be."
McIlroy is without a victory since the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai in November, a win that made sure he ended the year as the No 1 golfer in Europe and the United States.
"I think the game's like life, you're going to go through highs and you're going to go through lows. It's just about trying to work your way out of the lows," said the twice major winner.
"I haven't played my best golf this year but I've showed signs that it is there. It's just a matter of trying to do that more often. Sooner or later I'll play the golf that everyone knows I'm capable of and the golf I know that's capable of winning major championships," said McIlroy.
Meanwhile, British Open organiser the Royal & Ancient (R&A) said it was aware the issue of gender and single-sex golf clubs was a divisive one which it was finding increasingly difficult to handle. Muirfield is one of three male-only member clubs on the tournament's rota.
"Obviously the whole issue of gender and single-sex clubs has been pretty much beaten to death recently," R&A chief executive Peter Dawson said. "And we do, I assure you, understand that this is divisive. It's a subject we're finding increasingly difficult, to be honest."
Dawson said the R&A had been at pains recently to try to explain some of the facts around the issue. "Single-sex clubs are in a very small minority in the UK," he added. "Half of them are women only, half of them are men only. They're perfectly legal. In our view they don't do anyone any harm.
"The media are, with seemingly boundless energy and enthusiasm, giving out the message that this is an issue and that such clubs should be condemned to extinction and we shouldn't be using one to stage the Open championship. We understand that view," chief executive Dawson said.