VIENNA, Va., March 3, 2013 — Anyone who has ever suffered through a wisdom toothache knows it is not fun and no amount of minor pain relievers will normally touch it. Such was the problem with the number one golfer in the world, Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland’s contribution to the links, when he summarily withdrew from the Honda Classic in Palm Beach, Fla. yesterday after some disappointing rounds and a seven over par.
McIlroy will speak on Tuesday at the Doral about his sudden departure after only nine holes of golf. Everyone is waiting to hear the whole story.
McIlroy has been the leader for the past year, but a stubborn wisdom tooth that wouldn’t quit hurting affected him mentally and physically, as he told players Ernie Els and Mark Wilson as he took his clubs and left in the car for his home in Jupiter, Fla.
He later tweeted, “Apologies to all at the Honda. A tough day made impossible by severe tooth pain. Was desperate to defend title but couldn’t play on. Gutted.”
The 23 year-old phenom had had a lousy morning, with a triple-bogey, a double-bogey and two other bogeys. He even said he was mentally off as he departed the Champion Course at PGA National.
This is a rare and unusual departure for any pro golfer and is covered In the PGA rules, which require a medical excuse for a player to quit a tournament. He realized with little argument from anyone that his play was off, which could well affect the play of his partners.
His rounds thus far had been sporadic at best, a problem which many easily blamed on his equipment change. After playing for Titleist for some time, he recently switched to Nike clubs, which were introduced to a large audience with great fanfare and even strobe lights in Abu Dhabi, the imposing site of the Grand Mosque as a backdrop. At a reported $220 million deal, they better be good clubs.
The only exception to a full Nike bag was the putter, and McIlroy stuck with a new Scotty Cameron putter, made by Acushnet (owned by a Korean firm), named the “premier putter maker.”
Probably the most astute comment came from another North Ireland player, Graeme McDowell, who said that in his estimation, “He’s not swinging the club the way he was last summer. The right-to-left shape we’re all so familiar with has gone to a little bit of a cut shot.” More than an equipment change, McDowell added that “It’s not equipment, it’s a little bit of technique, a little bit of belief in his own head.”
He had posted stroke play rounds of 75-75-70 thus far this year before the withdrawal went up, and the WGC Accenture Match Play was heading toward the same 75 figure.
He has the Doral coming up as well as the Shell Houston Open later this month, so we’ll get a few more chances to see if the wisdom tooth gets successfully extracted and a great young golfer gets back to form, which his many fans hope is the case.
UPDATE on FINAL WINNER:
The Honda Classic ended up seeing Michael Thompson of Birmingham, Alabama take the title with nine under, despite a bogey on 17. The 27-year old is playing primo golf thus far, and now awaits the Doral Open to see if his luck will last.
Second was Geoff Ogilvy who carded a 69 with seven under, followed by PGA team rookie Luke Guthrie with a five under.
Tiger Woods failed to make the necessary cut for the Honda Classic.
In classic praeteritio, I promised I would not mention the golfer who didn’t fare so well, perhaps because of the Day-Glo orange outfit he wore today. May have blinded the ball in its trajectories.
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