Rory McIlroy felt the heavy expectations and pressures as the world’s No. 1 golfer weighing down on his 23-year-old shoulders and he had a meltdown, resulting in a bad decision in the heat of the moment. He likely thought the world was closing in on him and he just wanted to escape when he walked off the course last Friday at the Honda Classic.
As (I) expected, McIlroy was open and candid, admitting to his mistake and taking responsibility for his abrupt, un-Rory-like withdrawal in his press conference on Wednesday morning at Doral.
In the past, he’s always been a class act in tough situations and I’m sure he truly does regret his behavior. Because he’s usually extremely well-spoken and mature, it’s easy to forget he’s 23-years-old sometimes. And yes, he is a professional golfer with millions of dollars in the bank, but we’ve all been there — we’ve made tons of mistakes in our lives and careers that we regretted. Difference is, most of us committed them without the entire world watching.
His grace and conduct so far in his career earns him a one-time pass. After all, like I said, stuff happens and it’s how people deal with them and handle ourselves going forward that define character.
McIlroy, who said he’s had plenty of time to think about his actions, didn’t waste any time acknowledging his mistake and said he “realized pretty quickly that it wasn’t the right thing to do.”
No question he should have stuck it out and posted a score. He knows he screwed up and he faced the world media and took his medicine.
“No matter how bad I was playing, I should have stayed out there,” said Rory at Doral, where he’ll kick off the WGC-Cadillac Championship on Thursday playing alongside Tiger Woods and Luke Donald. “I should have tried to shoot the best score possible even though it probably wasn’t going to be good enough to make the cut.
“At that point in time, I was just all over the place, and you know, I saw red, as I said, and you know, it was a mistake and everyone makes mistakes and I’m learning from them. I guess some people have the pleasure of making mistakes in private. Most of my mistakes are in the public eye. So it is what it is, and I regret what I did. But, you know, it’s over now and it won’t happen again.”
Best way to share what Rory said? We’ll go to highlights and excerpts from his transcript.
*On what was the true reason behind his WD — what he said to reporters in the parking lot or what he released in a statement 45 minutes later: “Both. I wasn’t in a good place with my golf game. I was, you know, mentally you know, my head was all over the place. But at the same time, I have been struggling with my lower right wisdom tooth for over a year. I had braces on for six months last year to try and relieve a bit of the pressure on it and taking medication until I get home in northern Ireland and see my dentist, who is the only guy that I would trust to take it out. So, yeah, look, my tooth was bothering me, but it wasn’t bothering me enough to probably, you know, quit, but, you know, that’s just the way it is.”
*On what was going on Friday that led to his meltdown: “I think it was a buildup of everything. I’ve been putting a lot of pressure on myself to perform and I’ve been working so hard and not really getting much out of it. You know, that’s just been the frustrating thing, and that’s what happened. It was a buildup of high expectations from myself coming off, you know, the back of such a great year last year, and wanting to continue that form into this year and not being able to do it. I just sort of let it all get to me.”
*On what he’s learned from this experience: “I’ve got to remember, I started to play golf because I love it, I really do. It’s been my life for well, it’s been my life for, my life (laughter). I have to remember that. I have to go out there and enjoy myself, and it’s the same thing as last summer. Dave Stockton said to me: ‘When I see you out there, you’re not smiling. Smile more.’ And when I smile, it lists your spirits and that was basically the whole turnaround from last summer, as well, was my attitude. It’s the same thing, just go out there and enjoy it, and when you start to enjoy your golf, you start to play better and I haven’t been enjoying it because I’ve been putting so much pressure on myself. I go out here this week, I’m going to enjoy it. I’ve got four rounds, thankfully, and you know, I’m just going to go out there and have a good time.”
*On what he’s learned about himself: “I learned that when the tough gets going, I’ve got to stick in there a bit more and I’ve got to grind it out. There’s no excuse for quitting and it doesn’t set a good example for the kids watching me, trying to emulate way do. It wasn’t good for a whole lot of reasons, for the tournaments, the people coming out watching me. I feel like I let a lot of people down with what I did last week, and you know, for that, I am very sorry.”
*On whether he regrets the statement he released: “At the time that’s what I felt. Again it was a very reactive decision. At the time I felt being out on that golf course wasn’t going to do me any good. That’s why I did it. In hindsight, if I had of just taken a few minutes and collected my thoughts, I would have done something different.”
*On trying to alleviate the stress and pressures he’s felt: “I actually think in the long run, Friday will be a blessing in disguise. It was like it just sort of released a valve and all that sort of pressure that I’ve been putting on myself just went away. And I was like, just go out and have fun. It’s not life or death out there. It’s only a game. I had sort of forgotten that this year.”
*On whether he spoke to someone in particular who helped clarify things for him: “I spoke to the people that are closest to me, and they are all very supportive. All said pretty much the same thing. But yeah, I mean, I realize that what they are saying is right. I’ve just got to go out there and enjoy myself. I’m in a very privileged position. I get to play a game that I love for a living, and you know, sometimes I need to remember that.”
*On what he’s working on exactly with his swing that he’s been struggling with: “It’s actually going back too far outside and then coming down too far inside. But anyway. (Laughter).I’ve done a lot of work. The thing is this year, we knew that it was a little bit of a problem, and we were trying to find the balance between making a bit of a swing change and finding some playability in it so that I can actually go out there and play and not think about it. But what we realized, there’s no quick fixes in golf.
“You just have to get to the root of the problem, no pun intended (laughing), and I know if I can get my takeaway fixed, the rest of the swing will follow. The takeaway has always been the biggest key for my golf swing, and I need to get back to that. I’ve worked my ass off over the last four or five days to really try and get this right. Still, it’s a work-in-progress. As I said, there’s no quick fixes in golf but I’m going to go out there this week and all I care about is my swing, and I know if I can get my swing back on track, that the results will follow. So I’m not putting any pressure on myself this week to perform. I just want to get my swing in the right position, and I know when I do, the results will follow.”
*On how much the Nike deal contributed to the pressure he’s been feeling: “No, I really don’t think so. I think coming off the back of last year, five wins, a second major championship in two years, I just really wanted to try and continue that and continue where I left off in 2012, and it’s been frustrating that I haven’t been able to do that. And it doesn’t make a difference what deal or what clubs I play, that’s irrelevant. It’s about me on the golf course and the expectations and the pressure that I put myself under.”
*On whether he feels like he has to prove himself as No. 1: “I guess in a way, but it shouldn’t be, because I’ve been it’s not like this is a new position. I was sitting here this time last year, you know, just went to No. 1 in the world, so you know, I guess I’ve had a year to get adjusted to it and get used to it. So it shouldn’t be a problem, but I guess, you know, you want to watch, again, you want to sort of prove that you are No. 1 and that’s not the right way to go about things. You shouldn’t have to try and prove that. You should just go out and play your game and if you play well enough, the rankings and the results will speak for themselves.”
*On whether it’s fair to say he wasn’t ready swing-wise and properly adjusted to his equipment when he started the season in Abu Dhabi: “I felt like I was, but again, I feel if we had of tried to get to the root of the swing problem straightaway and not try at the time we were trying to find a balance between, okay, look, we know the swing is not in the position we want it to be in, but at the same time you have to go out and play and you have to go out and try to shoot a score. Where if I actually knuckle down and really got my head into it, I would have said, right, I’m going to do this, no matter how long it takes, no matter what the result is, no matter how bad I play for a few weeks, you know, this is what I have to get right. And when I get that right, the results will follow, and I guess after the last few weeks, I’ve sort of realized that.”
*On whether he should be more careful about what he says to the press a la Tiger: “Look, we, as in me and all you guys, are hopefully going to have a working relationship for the next 20 years, so I don’t want to jeopardize that by being closed. I feel like I’ve always been open and honest and given you guys all my thoughts and everything that I’ve yeah, and you know, I don’t want it to be that way where there’s friction between me and the press because at the end of the day, you guys are here because you’re reporting what we do on the golf course all over the world. So it’s not like I want that to be a strained relationship, because it’s going to be a long one, I hope.”
*On whether he’s adding a tournament because he’s only played 4.5 rounds: “I haven’t planned on it yet. You know, I was waiting to see how I was going to do this week and then make a decision from there. You know, I know if I want to play Tampa next week, I’ve got to enter by Friday and obviously there’s Bay Hill after that. Right now, I haven’t made a decision. And you know, I feel like I’ve made some progress over the last few days, so the likelihood is I probably won’t add an event. But again, it all depends on how I feel with my game and how I feel out there on the course.”
*On WTF ‘FTB’ stands for: “It’s a little private joke between friends, and something I probably can’t divulge on live TV if I’m on live, I don’t know. But yeah.”
*On the difference between the ball he was using and the one he switched to this year: “I feel like this ball is better for me. It’s better in the wind. I can keep it down. It reacts really well around the greens. It feels great. You know, if you strike any golf ball in the world correctly, it’s going to go where you want it to. I really like this golf ball, and it was the first thing, even when I wasn’t a Nike player, whenever they came out with this resin technology, I thought, this sort of makes sense because you can put more weight around the perimeter around the ball and obviously make it more stable in the air. I’m a big believer and I feel like it’s a really good golf ball. I guess I haven’t worked well with it the first few weeks but I know when I hit a good shot, I know it’s all me, it’s nothing to do with the equipment, nothing to do with the ball. It is all me.”
*On whether problems with tennis star girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki had anything to do with his breakdown: “No, not at all. I know I’ve read what’s been written. And like just because I have a bad day on the golf course and Caroline loses a match in Malaysia, it doesn’t mean that we’re breaking up (shakes head), (laughter). It’s sport, and look, I’d rather keep my private life as private as possible. Everything on that front is great and I’m looking forward to seeing her next week when she gets to Miami.”
Your reaction to Rory’s presser? Do you give him a pass? Have you changed your opinion about him? Where does he stand with you after what happened last Friday to what he said on Wednesday?
(AP Photo/Alan Diaz)