Nicklaus believes McIlroy will bounce back
Tiger Woods joins others in searching for his lost ball on the fourth fairway following his tee shot on the sixth hole during the final round of play in the Honda Classic PGA in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, yesterday. photograph: reuters
Jack Nicklaus believes Rory McIlroy will be playing “just fine” when the Masters rolls around and insisted that the world number one must forget about his problems adjusting to his Nike clubs and “move on.”
As 27-year-old Michael Thompson shot a one under 69 to win the Honda Classic by two shots from Australia’s Geoff Ogilvy (69) on nine under, the 18-time major winner reluctantly weighed in on McIlroy’s shocking decision to walk off the course after completing just eight holes of his second round on Friday.
“He’s got to move on,” Nicklaus said. “I really don’t know if it was a wisdom tooth or what it is, but I know that Rory is such a good player, such a talented kid and such a nice kid and he wants to do right.
Easy to blame
“He has had a not very good stretch and it is easy to blame it on your golf clubs, but I don’t really buy that because I look back at what I did.
“I represented Slazenger’s England when I went over to the British Open, and played the small ball. Then I came back and played our clubs here. Then when I played in Australia and I would play Slazenger’s Australia and the B51 little small ball down there.
“I went back and forth and played all those balls and different clubs and frankly you’ve just got to learn to deal with it. Not everything is perfect and his talent is so much greater and a much bigger influence on his golf game than his clubs. He could play with anything.”
Nicklaus said that McIlroy “shouldn’t have walked off the golf course” mid-round on Friday but backed the Northern Irishman to be back to top form in time for next month’s Masters Tournament.
“That was unfortunate,” he said of McIlroy’s hasty exit, revealing that the two-time major winner told him he was struggling with his new irons.
“I think if he had thought about it for five minutes he wouldn’t have done it. I think he’s a good kid, he’s a sharp kid and he’s so frustrated with what’s happened and how he’s played for the last month or so that it just got to him.
“I talked to him on Monday and we had this exact conversation before the tournament. I said, ‘Don’t talk about your golf clubs, you are too good a talent. It will come around, just go play golf.’
“I am sure Nike will work with him to get where he has to get. He will be fine. When the Masters rolls around, Rory McIlroy is going to be playing just fine.”
Graeme McDowell, who was joint runner up with tournament winner Thompson in last year’s US Open, was pleased with his improved short game after a closing 70 gave him a share of ninth place on two under par.
“I feel like I’ve got some really nice momentum,” McDowell said. “I played solid at the Match Play last week and I’m happy with the progress I’m making, especially around the greens.”
Tiger Woods was six over on a blustery day before an eagle at the last gave him a 74, which was 12 shots worse than last year’s closing round.