By Kevin York
I’m a Rory McIlroy fan. He’s not my absolute favorite golfer, and I actually like his fellow countryman Graeme McDowell better, but I like Rory and respect what he’s doing for golf. A young, good, potentially dominant golfer with his head screwed on straight. The game means something to him and winning a tournament is still an emotional event for him. I thought he would be the answer to what Tiger Woods has given us the last ten years (ok, more like the ten years previous to the last two, when he’s been a shell of his former self) – cold, robotic dominance from a man that appears to have no emotions other than anger or self pity.
This morning that all may have changed. As ESPN reported, McIlroy walked off the course in the middle of his second round at the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens in Florida.
The PGA Tour credits McIlroy’s exit to a “sore wisdom tooth” and McIlroy used that as his excuse in a statement as well:
“I sincerely apologize. 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.”
Hmmm…sore wisdom tooth?
Or could it be something else? Like maybe frustration? Or mental issues? Both of which could actually be linked.
Let’s look at Rory’s start to the season:
- At the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship in January, he shot 75-75 in his first two rounds at missed the cut.
- In February, McIlroy lost to Ireland’s Shane Lowry in the first round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
- Now at the Honda Classic, McIlroy shot even par in the first round on Thursday. This morning, through eight holes of his second round, he shot a triple bogey, double bogey and two pars before walking off on his ninth hole.
I should also mention that in the offseason McIlroy changed his equipment, from Titleist to Nike. That kind of change can take some time to get used to, which a number of people, including Nick Faldo and Johnny Miller, commented on upon hearing of his plans to switch.
It’s his early results and recent move to Nike that makes me question if this was indeed a sore tooth that resulted in him walking off the course. I’ll feel bad if his withdrawal really was from a sore tooth, but as a fan, this is a question I have to ask.
This walkoff wreaks of Tiger Woods behavior. I seem to recall a number of times when Tiger has been playing poorly in a tournament and suddenly revealed an injury he’d been hiding, requiring him to stop his round in the middle of it. I thought Rory was different.
As fans, we would never let someone in the NBA, NFL, NHL or MLB hear the end of it if they suddenly revealed a phantom injury requiring them to leave a game. It would drastically change our opinion of that player. Is it any different for golfers? It seems to be. Tiger Woods got away with it for years. Granted, Tiger’s following was not, and still isn’t, what I would call core golf fans. His fans have largely always been casual golf fans, the type that can’t name any other golfers with the exception of maybe Phil Mickelson. These fans always gave Tiger the benefit of the doubt because he was great.
I think Rory is starting to build a similar type of following to Tiger, but I thought he was better than Tiger. Not necessarily as a golfer, but as a person. More likable, better character, not a sex addict leading a secret life consisting of 1,463 mistresses spread around the globe.
I hope Rory’s walk-off really was due to a sore tooth. It just really reminded me of a Tiger action. Tell me you’re not following the Tiger mold, Rory, because if you are, I won’t be cheering for you anymore.