by Jeff Skinner
Another chapter in a very strange golf season was written at the Honda Classic today when defending champion Rory McIlroy walked off the course. Rory was spraying it all over, was seven over through eight holes and after he dumped his approach to eighteen in the water he packed it in.
Reports were that he told nearby reporters that he was fine physically but he said he was “not in a good place mentally.” As the golfing world recoiled in shock Rory released a statement apologizing to the Honda and cited a nagging wisdom tooth that was causing him severe discomfort and distracting him from the game.
It’s another bizarre ending to another disappointing tournament for Rory. So far he missed a cut, got bounced in the first round of the Match Play and now he’s gone after a round and a half. Of course there are those that claim his equipment change is behind his failures this year but let’s not judge that so quickly.
Does it look like he packed it in because of his poor play, certainly. Was his statement a hurried bit of damage control, you bet. But I’m going to give Rory a pass on this one.
Let’s remember who this kid is. This is the young man that has beaten the world’s best on the toughest courses and done it all with a smile. He’s the first to call himself out on bad shots and is quick to recognize how fortunate he is.
McIlroy came on the scene as a fresh faced, mopped top phenom that had a game beyond his years, answered every question and gave plenty of himself to all those who asked. He won’t turn 24 until May and he has handled the pressure of being the best golfer in the world like an old pro.
Has he made mistakes? Who hasn’t. Does he have ups and downs, absolutely.
Certainly there is a level of frustration with his game and maybe bearing the weight of his enormous contract, being the new face of Nike and the constant barrage of media have worn him down. Earlier this year at Abu Dhabi McIroy uttered what I thought was the first sentence that could have possibly been classified as curt or impolite. “I’m not here to talk about my [Nike] contract, I’m here to talk about my golf,” was what he told the press after he changed out his Nike putter for his old Scotty Cameron.
Maybe he’s feeling it… who wouldn’t . But Rory is too smart, too mature and too well “parented” by his mom and dad to let this fester. After all he’s still a kid, a very rich kid, but still a kid.
I only hope all this doesn’t change the way he deals with the press. We don’t need another Tiger Woods who considers the press the enemy.
I’ll give Rory a pass, a get out of jail free card on this one. I’m sure he’ll finish more tournaments then he’ll walk out on and the odds are he’s not John Daley. He’ll get it, it may take some time but he’ll get it. Remember, he’s still a kid.