Rory McIlroy’s walk-off withdrawal….due to toothache (?!?!)
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour


What's eating Rory McIlroy?

What’s eating Rory McIlroy?

Rory McIlroy, who was seven-over through eight holes, dunked his second shot into the water on the par-5 18th, and then walked straight to his car.

When three reporters who followed him to the parking lot asked for an explanation, McIlroy told them, “There’s not really much I can say, guys. I’m not in a good place mentally, you know?”


Well, kind of?

McIlroy, the defending champion, added there was nothing wrong physically.

What about his swing mechanically?

“Yeah, I really don’t know what’s going on,” said the world’s no. 1 golfer.

About an hour after Rory’s departure, his team released the following statement:

“I sincerely apologize to 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. 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 favorite tournaments of the year and I regret having to make the decision to withdraw, but it was one I had to make.”

Um. Really? I mean, I had a dental emergency during the third round of the Sony Open that forced me to walk off after following the final group for seven holes. So I guess I get it,  but clearly my situation/job is just a tad different.

Wisdom teeth suck, but even if that were the case, Rory would have been better saying nothing at all and paying a fine. Or simply sucking it up and trying to grind it out on the next nine and sign his scorecard and miss the cut like a pro. That’s what you’d expect Rory to do — which makes this all the more strange.

The PGA Tour’s policy on withdrawing during a round is as follows:

During a round, a player may withdraw because of injury or other disability which requires medical attention, or serious personal emergency. The player shall notify the PGA TOUR Tournament Director or a PGA TOUR Rules Official of his reason for withdrawal, and within a period of 14 days submit written evidence supporting such reason to the Commissioner.

Team Rory also sent out a tweet apologizing:


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Rory, who has only completed four competitive rounds this season (with one in the match-play format), has been in the spotlight even more than usual due to the high-profile endorsement deal he signed with Nike. McIlroy won the 2011 U.S. Open and 2012 PGA Championship playing with Titleist equipment.

Since the big switch, he’s missed the cut at Abu Dhabi, lost in the first round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, shot 70 on Thursday at the Honda Classic and walked-off rather abruptly in an un-Rory-like manner in the second round. Naturally, today’s events will only stir up more speculation and questions with his new equipment.

He’s scheduled to play in the WGC Cadillac Championship at Doral next week, which has no cut, and then the Shell Houston Open at the end of March to lead into the Masters the week of April 8th.

Rory’s story so far in 2012 has officially gotten cray-cray. I was really hoping for a ho-hum week, where we wouldn’t have to freak out about anything related to Rory’s game and equipment.

I will say that when I walked with him yesterday afternoon, he seemed baffled — I’m not sure if that’s the right word. Perhaps that was my reaction to watching him for the first time in 2013 and not exactly recognizing the world’s No. 1 player. He would hit shots that he posed for and watched in the air, like he liked them, but the result wasn’t what he expected. Even after he was pleased with the swing, twirling the club in his follow-through, he seemed befuddled.

After he posted for an even-par 70, which included a bogey on the last, the par-5 18th, he appeared deflated, but he was still trying to be a goofy, “normal” 23-year-old (from what I gleaned from my brief interactions yesterday). There was, indeed, something… off.

What’s eating Rory? Girl problems? Added pressure? Frustration with his swing? Equipment? A combination of all of the above? We can only speculate, unless you buy the toothache excuse  explanation.

Some have wondered, can you imagine if Tiger Woods pulled something like this? Well, there have been somewhat similar incidents, like last year at Doral, where he was carted off after 11 holes, after he appeared to be in physical pain caused by nagging leg injuries. The departure created quite the scene, a la the O.J. Simpson car chase, with a helicopter trailing Woods’ car as he fled the scene  left the golf course.

Rory won’t get the “Tiger treatment” because of his charismatic candor and history of transparency with the press and public.

Takeaway? I guess the good news is there weren’t cameras chasing Rory as he weaved through traffic down PGA Boulevard.

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)