Rory McIlroy apologized for walking out of the Honda Classic on Friday, said it will never again, and basically crushed his much-anticipated Wednesday press conference by taking full responsibility for his actions and charming his listeners with openness and humor.
Unlike a certain staged event a few years back performed by his boyhood idol, Tiger Woods, there was no cheesy backdrop, no teleprompted mea culpa; it was just Rory being Rory with a press corps he claimed he hoped to remain friendly with for years to come.
“I realized pretty quickly it wasn’t the right thing to do,” McIlroy said after warming the crowd up with a joke about watching Manchester United lose last night. “It was a mistake. It won’t happen again.”
In his first formal media meet-up since walking off PGA National midway through his second round, McIlroy blamed himself for his actions, said a swing adjustment and not his new Nike clubs were causing his poor play, and he regretted his actions.
“There’s no excuse for quitting,” he said ahead of Thursday’s start to the WGC-Cadillac Championship.” It doesn’t set a good example for the kids watching me...it wasn’t good for the tournament...I feel like I let a lot of people down for what I did last week and for that I’m very sorry.”
Highlights from the presser:
Rory’s human -- “It was a mistake and everyone makes mistakes and I’m learning from them. Some people have the pleasure of making mistakes in private. Most of my mistakes are in the public eye. It is what it is and I regret what I did. It’s over now and it won’t happen again.”
The wisdom tooth is an issue -- “My tooth was bothering me but it wasn’t bothering me enough to probably quit.”
Internal pressure exploded on Friday -- “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.”
Lessons learned? Enjoy yourself; it’s just a game -- “I started to play golf because I love it, I really do...and I just have to remember that....I’ve got four rounds, thankfully [this week's tourney is a no-cut contest], and I’m just going to go out there and have a good time.... It’s not life or death out there; it’s only a game and I’d sort of forgotten that this year.”
Will he follow Tiger’s advise to watch what he says? Not necessarily -- “We...and all you guys, we’re hopefully going to have a working relationship for the next 20 years so I don’t want to jeopardize that by being closed...[Our relationship] is going to be a long one. I hope.”
Despite rumors to the contrary, all’s well with his tennis star girlfriend -- “Just because I have a bad day on the golf course and Caroline [Wozniacki] loses a match in Malaysia doesn’t mean that we’re breaking up. It’s sport and I’d rather keep my private life as private as possible. But everything on that front is great.”
And now back to our regularly scheduled golf season, which resumes Thursday at Doral. McIlroy will reunite with good buddy Woods and Luke Donald for an 11:53 am. ET tee time.