Toothache forces McIlroy withdrawal
World number one and defending champion Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland walks off the course before putting on the 18th hole, his ninth, during the second round of the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Photograph: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images
Golf:Defending champion Rory McIlroy has apologised for withdrawing from the Honda Classic in Florida after admitting that severe pain relating to a wisdom tooth was affecting his concentration.
The 23-year-old world number one walked off the course after eight holes of his second round, at which stage he had dropped seven shots.
McIlroy started the day on level par but a disastrous run from the 10th, his first hole today, saw him drop seven shots in eight holes, including a triple-bogey at the par-four 16th where he visited the water twice.
He also found the water on the 18th, but didn’t finish out the hole, shaking hands with playing partners Ernie Els and Mark Wilson before going straight to a car with caddie JP Fitzgerald and coach Michael Bannon.
McIlroy told waiting reporters that he was “just not in a great place right now”, and a statement released later through the PGA Tour explained further why he abandoned his round.
“I sincerely apologise to The Honda Classic and PGA Tour or my sudden withdrawal,” McIlroy said. “I have been suffering with a sore wisdom tooth, which is due to come out in the near future. It began bothering me again last night, so I relieved it with Advil.
“It was very painful again this morning, and I was simply unable to concentrate. It was really bothering me and had begun to affect my playing partners.
“I came here with every intention of defending my Honda Classic title. Even though my results haven’t revealed it, I really felt like I was rounding a corner. This is one of my favourite tournaments of the year and I regret having to make the decision to withdraw, but it was one I had to make.”
The 23-year-old has struggled to rediscover the form that has elevated him to the top of the world rankings so far in 2013, highlighted by his first-round exit at the Accenture Match Play Championship to Shane Lowry last week.
He signed a lucrative sponsorship deal with Nike last month and his performances with the manufacturer’s clubs have fallen below expectations.
McIlroy also missed the cut at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship by four shots last month.
The link between McIlroy’s slump in form and his new clubs has already been speculated on, but he dismissed concerns about ball control only yesterday. The PGA Tour today reported it was the first time McIlroy has withdrawn during a tournament.
Things went a lot better for his fellow Ulsterman Graeme McDowell who, on five under after a 68, was four off the clubhouse lead of American Luke Guthrie, whose round of 63 saw him climb above Mike Thompson on eight under and move three ahead of England's Lee Westwood (68), Australian Geoff Ogilvy (66) and American Doug LaBelle II (68).