PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Defending champion Rory McIlroy’s disappointing start at the Honda Classic took an odd turn Friday when the 23-year-old from Northern Ireland abruptly walked off the course midway through his second round.
After struggling through his first eight holes on the back nine of PGA National’s Champion Course, the world’s No. 1-ranked golfer hit his approach shot into the water on the par-5 18th hole.
He then withdrew, later saying in a statement he was bothered by tooth pain.
“I have been suffering with a sore wisdom tooth, which is due to come out in the near future,” McIlroy’s statement read. “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.”
According to the Associated Press, though, physical pain wasn’t the only factor in McIlroy’s decision.
“There’s not really much I can say, guys,” the AP quoted McIlroy as saying in the parking lot. “I’m not in a good place mentally, you know?”
McIlroy, who shot an even-par 70 in the tournament’s opening round, struggled in cold, wet conditions Friday. After starting the day tied with 19 other golfers for 61st place, McIlroy collected a double bogey on No. 11, a bogey on 13 and another bogey on 17.
His worst hole was the par-4 16th, where McIlroy sent two balls into the water before finishing with a triple bogey that sent him plummeting into a tie for 136th place.
Both his playing partners, former Honda champs Ernie Els and Mark Wilson, said neither noticed McIlroy to be in pain.
“He wasn’t playing the way the world No. 1 plays normally,” Wilson said. “He was upset with his golf, and I guess he had enough for the week.”
Added Els: “That’s the last thing he wants to do is walk off. Obviously something was seriously bothering him and he was not going to make the cut and probably didn’t want to continue playing that way.”
Friday’s withdrawal was McIlroy’s third early exit this year. He missed the cut in January’s Abu Dhabi Championship and was eliminated in the first round of last week’s World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship.
Mad at mud
After heavy rain Wednesday, players were allowed to lift, clean and place their balls during play Thursday. They didn’t have that luxury Friday.
Several players, including Lee Westwood, expressed frustration after dealing with muddy balls on the course.
“I did find it quite strange that preferred lies wasn’t on just through the first two rounds just to get everybody through it,” said Westwood, who shot a 68 on Friday and was tied for fifth at 134. “The ball was definitely picking up mud.”
The Golf Channel’s Spotlight broadcast will run during NBC’s coverage of the Honda Classic Saturday and Sunday. Spotlight will cover just holes 15-17, which make up the infamous Bear Trap at PGA National’s Champion Course, from 3-5 p.m. both days.
NBC will broadcast from 3-6 p.m. The Golf Channel will provide live lead-in coverage from 1-3 p.m. both days.
Staff writer Steve Waters contributed to this report.
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