McIlroy walks off course and straight into a major crisis of confidence
Rory McIlroy walks through a tunnel on the 16th hole where he took a triple bogey seven at the Honda Classic in Florida yesterday. Photograph: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images
GOLF:Rory McIlroy walked off the course mid-round and straight into a major crisis of confidence after a stunning second round meltdown in the Honda Classic yesterday.
The troubled world number one denied there was a physical issue after he soared to seven over par through eight holes and then walked in after hitting into the water for the third time in the course of a torrid morning as he tried to muscle a fairway wood to the par-five 18th at PGA National, his ninth hole of the day.
Near tears as he stood in the car park with a police escort by his side, a bewildered McIlroy said: “I can’t really say much guys. I’m just not in a great place mentally.” He then added: “I don’t know what’s going on.”
He later claimed in a statement that he had a massive toothache but while McIlroy’s problems are indeed in his head, they are of the mental rather than the dental variety.
McIlroy slammed clubs as he hit two balls into the water in his first eight holes, racking up two bogeys, a double bogey and a triple bogey seven to soar to seven over. After carving his second to the lake at the par-five 18th – his ninth hole – he didn’t even bother to take a drop.
After shaking hands with playing partners Ernie Els and Mark Wilson he made a beeline for the car park and denied three times that he had any physical problems before driving away with his caddie JP Fitzgerald and coach Michael Bannon. His management company handler had no idea he had even left the course.
Asked if there were any personal issues bothering him, he said mysteriously: “No. Well, there’s a couple of things.”
Within half an hour he issued a statement to the PGA Tour that could save him from a hefty fine – a wisdom tooth problem. It’s the least of his worries.
Players can’t walk off the course in the middle of a round without presenting a valid excuse for injury or a personal emergency within 14 days. Whether a swing problem and the pressure of a €190 million move to Nike are personal issues is a matter of debate.
In his statement, McIlroy said: “I sincerely apologise to the The Honda Classic and PGA Tour for my sudden withdrawal. 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.”
If McIlroy is forced to have his wisdom tooth removed next week he could miss the WGC-Cadillac Championship in Miami – damaging further his preparations for the Masters.