When Rory McIlroy faces reporters on Tuesday morning in Miami, will likely say he gave into pain and vexation with his game when he withdrew from the Honda Classic midway through the second round.
Expect McIlroy to offer a candid rationale for his much-censured and rather mysterious withdrawal, according to golf writer Brian Keogh. A member of McIlroy’s inner circle told Keogh, on condition of anonymity, that the world No. 1 will speak openly with the media, many of whom have been critical of his walkout, during his scheduled 9:30 a.m. ET press conference at Doral, ahead of next week’s WGC-Cadillac Championship.
McIlroy practiced at the Bear’s Club on Saturday with coach Michael Bannon, said the source, who added that the two-time major winner may also announce he will have his wisdom teeth extracted following the tournament.
After initially telling reporters he quit because his head was not in the game, McIlroy later issued a statement blaming a sore wisdom tooth for his abrupt departure. The friend told Keogh that McIlroy was in intense pain -- which a letter from his dentist to the PGA Tour will support -- when he retired after going 7-over through eight holes.
A couple of McIlroy’s colleagues had some advice for the 23-year-old, who has taken serious heat for struggling mightily in three events this season in the wake of his extremely lucrative switch from Titleist to Nike gear.
Tiger Woods, who knows a bit about the ups and downs of being in the media spotlight as a superstar athlete, told his young rival he should choose his words carefully when dealing with the press.
"He’s just got to be more -- just got to think about it a little bit more before you say something or do something," Woods said -- an admonition that James Corrigan interpreted as a license to lie.
"In other words, do not tell the truth," Corrigan wrote. "The saddest part of this farce could be the ending of McIlroy’s innocence. He is too honest for his own good."
To his Northern Irish countryman Graeme McDowell, McIlroy was dealing with a crisis of confidence -- not with his gear but with the swing that in 2012 won him a second major championship, dual money titles on the PGA and European Tours, and golf’s top ranking. McDowell believes the pressures of being the best in the game had turned the laid-back, cocksure kid who crushed it in the second part of last year into someone "playing to the naysayers...saying he can’t do it with Nike equipment."
McIlroy’s practice session prior to Friday’s round foreshadowed his subsequent withdrawal, McDowell noted.
"His demeanor looks a little different. I warmed up beside him on the range this morning and it wasn’t the normal display of ‘flushery’ that we normally see," McDowell told Keogh. "I felt he was a little off with his swing this morning and there were a few moans and groans coming from he bay next to me and that’s not like him.
"It is normally a display, normally a clinic with superlatives from the coach and caddie being thrown out in the background and it wasn’t like that this morning."
McIlroy’s woes -- which include a missed cut in his first event of the year in Abu Dhabi and a first-round loss in last week’s match play -- were nothing that more reps and a decent outing to boost his self-assurance could not fix, according to McDowell.
"He is one of the most talented players I have ever seen," he said, "and once he starts believing in himself again he will be back."
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