Rory McIlroy admits Honda Classic withdrawal was big mistake
In an exclusive interview with Sports Illustrated's Michael Bamberger, Rory McIlroy admitted that withdrawing from last week's Honda Classic was a big mistake.
McIlroy, who became the No. 1 ranked player in the world with his 2012 Honda Classic victory, withdrew after eight holes in the second round last Friday. To that point, he was 7-over par for the day and looking to add to that total when he found trouble on his ninth hole.
“It was a reactive decision,” McIlroy told Bamberger. “What I should have done is take my drop, chip it on, try to make a five and play my hardest on the back nine, even if I shot 85. What I did was not good for the tournament, not good for the kids and the fans who were out there watching me -- it was not the right thing to do.”
What happened next was, well, bizarre. First, McIlroy told reporters he pulled out of the tournament because he was in a bad state mentally. Later, in a statement from his management group, McIlroy insisted the early exit was due to a painful wisdom tooth.
Needless to say, there was a lot of confusion. Ever since bursting onto the scene, McIlroy has been a media favorite thanks to his honesty and willingness to be forthcoming. Something wasn't right in this instance.
Because of the confusion, people were left to speculate. Could this be a result of McIlroy's equipment change? Did he and tennis star girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki break up? Was Rory simply fed up and decide he didn't want to play anymore?
An enormous responsibility comes with being No. 1 -- something McIlroy seems to have now learned the hard way.
And, as it turns out, the pain McIlroy was suffering from the wisdom tooth was no white lie. It was a serious problem, but not one that should have kept him from finishing his round.
On Friday morning, by the time he reached the ninth hole of his second round, Rory McIlroy was, he said, “seeing red.” His bottom right impacted wisdom tooth, which is being treated by his childhood dentist in Belfast, was causing him pain. His “out of sorts” swing was causing him more pain. His scorecard through eight holes -- par, double bogey, par, bogey, par, par, triple bogey, bogey -- was causing him the most pain. When his second shot on the 18th hole at PGA National, home course for the Honda Classic, settled in a pond, McIlroy’s mind was overwhelmed with a single thought: “I don’t want to be here.”
Later, Bamberger wrote:
On Friday, within a half hour of shaking hands with Els and Wilson, McIlroy knew that by quitting he had done the wrong thing. He drove to his home, in a gated development in Jupiter, with his instructor, Michael Bannon, and his caddie, J.P. Fitzgerald. Soon after, he was joined by his parents, Rosie and Gerry, and by liaison Sean O’Flaherty, who works for Horizon Sports Management, the Dublin agency that represents McIlroy. Rory spoke by phone to his agent, Conor Ridge. “By the time I got home I was saying, ‘We need to reassess here,’” McIlroy said. The drive home was about 15 minutes.
Wednesday at Doral, McIlroy is scheduled to meet with all the media -- some of whom are angry that Bamberger got the exclusive.
Put it this way -- McIlroy, by all counts a great young man -- made a mistake that he instantly regretted. Who hasn't? He probably wanted to set the record straight before the scheduled presser to start the process of getting past it.
As McIlroy is learning, unfortunately you can't please everyone.
Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tj_auclair.