Rory McIlroy denies breakup, ignores #FTB hash tag controversy

David Cannon

Rory McIlroy comes clean about his regrettable withdrawal from the Honda Classic, those pesky swing changes, and the rumors about his love life, but No. 1 leaves us hanging about his FTB-charged Twitter exchange with an Irish pop star.

Rory McIlroy won the media over on Wednesday during a press conference in which he displayed humor, honesty, and humility while apologizing for quitting the Honda Classic, pledging never to pull such a bush league prank again, and even laughing about rumors that his love life had hit the skids. But for all that, there was one topic the world No. 1 declined to address: WTF does “FTB” mean?

Appearing a tad nervous at the start of his first public appearance since he walked off PGA National midway through Friday’s second round with a 7-over on the scorecard, McIlroy addressed scribes who packed the interview room ahead of this week's WGC-Cadillac Championship. In addition to discussing the state of his game, the popular golfer from Northern Ireland also took on the pressing matter of the day -- what’s up with Wozzilroy?

“No, no no,” the two-time champ whose hitherto charmed existence has recently taken on aspects of “Days of Our Lives,” said about mounting rumors that his romance with his tennis star girlfriend was on the rocks. “Just because I have a bad day on the golf course and Caroline [Wozniacki] loses a match in Malaysia [as she did last week to the equivalent of a Monday qualifier] doesn’t mean we’re breaking up.”

While McIlroy opened up about just about everything reporters wanted to know, he politely refused to discuss that little matter of the “FTB” hashtag that was the subject of tweets between him and Irish pop star Ronan Keating.

While the world pondered what it could mean -- Feed the Beast, Franchise Tax Board, Fear the Beard? -- McIlroy received a “loving the hash tag bro” tweet (since deleted) from @ronanofficial, who reportedly has “F**k the begrudgers” inked on his left wrist.

Perhaps believing that was not the image he sought to portray as he offered his sincere mea culpas to kids and everyone else offended by his ill-considered walk-off, McIlroy declined to address hashtag-gate.

“It’s a little private joke between friends,” McIlroy said with no apparent irony about his very public social-media repartee. “It’s something I probably can’t divulge on live TV.”

Keating, by the way, appeared to get a kick out of the kerfuffle, offering his take on the matter hours before McIlroy took the podium at Doral.

For those still scratching their heads over this one, scroll down almost to the bottom of “O'Byrne Files [of] Dublin Slang Dictionary and Phrase-book” for the answer to today’s pop quiz. ‘Nuff said.

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