McIlroy quit and there is no excuse for that

By Jason SobelMarch 1, 2013, 5:25 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – We will find out more about Rory McIlroy’s mid-round withdrawal from the Honda Classic in coming days and weeks and months. We will find out what he wants us to find out, because he is the only one who knows exactly why, on his ninth hole of the day, standing at 7 over already and about to add to that, he shook hands with his playing partners and sped away from the premises.

For now, here’s what we know: His official medical reason for withdrawing was “sore wisdom tooth,” which affected his concentration. We also know this: Before leaving, he told a few reporters, “There’s not really much I can say, guys. I’m not in a good place mentally, you know?”

As one fan tweeted in reaction, perhaps he meant to claim he’s not in a good place dentally.

Whatever the case – whether it really was a toothache or he wasn’t in a good place mentally or one led to the other – chances are we’ll learn plenty about his reasoning, since the game’s No. 1-ranked player has always been honest about his thoughts and opinions.

And he deserves a little honesty from us right now, too.

So here it is: Rory, you do not, ever, under any circumstances, pack up and go home simply because things aren’t going your way.

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This is beyond poor form. This is quitting. This is John Daly territory. This is the absolute opposite of what we expect and demand from our superstars.

“I'm a great fan of Rory's,” playing partner Ernie Els said afterward, “but I don't think that was the right thing to do.”

The comparisons may not be fair, but they’ll come fast and furious on the heels of McIlroy’s toothy situation. Ben Hogan got hit by a Greyhound bus and continued competing at a high level. Tiger Woods won a U.S. Open on a broken leg. Hell, just a few weeks ago, a woman named Daniela Holmqvist received a poisonous spider bite during a qualifier for the Women’s Australian Open, only to extract the venom with a tee and keep on playing.

The golf course may not be a rugged gridiron or a blood-spattered boxing ring, but we still want our best players to be tough. We want them to suck it up during the lean times. Take their lumps, get through it and move on.

Even if McIlroy was in pain, it wasn’t a pain that inhibited his swing. Bad back? Fine. Creaky knee? OK. But unless he was considering anchoring a putter to his lips, there’s no physical reason he couldn’t continue for another nine-and-a-half holes before heading home for a dentist’s consultation. The truth is, his wisdom tooth probably wouldn’t have felt so painful if he was about to make the turn in 4 under.

Think about it: Instead of riding off in shame after an opening eight holes that included a triple-bogey, a double-bogey, two bogeys and what was going to be another big number on the 18th hole, McIlroy could have taken those lumps, told us exactly why he posted an 83 or so, then explained why it was so important for him to keep going, even though he didn’t want to.

Because he’s a role model. Because he wants to maintain his image. Because he doesn’t want to be construed as a quitter.

If he stuck around, he could choose his own ending for this story, rather than leaving it in our hands to theorize about why he chose to leave.

And yes, plenty of conspiracy theories abound. One states that Rory is clearly confounded by his new Nike equipment, which could partially account for his issues. It hardly explains how a two-time major champion could almost immediately start resembling a 6-handicap, though.

Another is quick to point out that McIlroy’s longtime girlfriend, tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, suffered what Reuters termed “one of her worst career defeats” by losing to 186th-ranked Qiang Wang two days earlier. In a mental pursuit like golf – and, apparently, tennis – relationship troubles can affect the final result a lot more than a toothache.

That said, let’s be careful sounding the alarms and raising the red flags. Just nine months ago, McIlroy looked completely lost, languishing through a second-round 79 at The Memorial Tournament for a third consecutive missed cut. Any observer that day would have predicted long-term struggles for the youngster, but just a few months later he was putting the finishing touches on an eight-stroke PGA Championship victory before closing out the season as Player of the Year on both major tours.

None of that should serve as an excuse, though.

McIlroy offered his own explanation for walking off on Friday, but simply put, it wasn’t good enough. Every golfer owes it to the game, to the tournament and to himself to continue playing, unless there’s such a debilitating injury that he physically can’t do it. Toss in the fact that he’s ranked No. 1 and the defending champion and being marketed as a big-ticket draw for this event, and it only adds fuel to the fire that is steadily building toward him right now.

In the end, there’s a sense of irony in this situation. Rory McIlroy offered up a sore wisdom tooth as his reason for leaving mid-round, but the act of leaving mid-round itself is one devoid of any wisdom.

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Frittelli fulfilled promise by making Match Play field

By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 8:40 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Dylan Frittelli attended the University of Texas and still maintains a residence in Austin, so in an odd way this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play is a home game for the South African who plays the European Tour.

Frittelli actually attended the event last year as a spectator, when he watched the quarterfinal matches on Saturday afternoon, and made a promise to himself.

“I told a lot of people, I was running into them. I said, ‘I'll be here next year, I'll be playing in this tournament,’” said Frittelli, who climbed to 45th in the world ranking after two victories last year in Europe. “People looked at me, you're 190 in the world, that's hard to get to 64. It was a goal I set myself.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

Frittelli’s next goal may be a little payback for a loss he suffered in college when he was a teammate of Jordan Spieth’s. Frittelli is making his first start at the Match Play and could face his old Longhorn stable mate this week depending on how the brackets work out and his play.

“We had the UT inter-team championship. Coach switched it to match play my senior year, and Jordan beat me in the final at UT Golf Club. It was 3 and 2,” Frittelli said. “So I'm not too keen to face him again.

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Match Play security tightens after Austin bombings

By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 8:06 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – A fourth bombing this month in Austin injured two men Sunday night and authorities believe the attacks are the work of a serial bomber.

The bombings have led to what appears to be stepped-up security at this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club.

“I was out here [Sunday]; typically that's the most relaxed day. But they had security officials on every corner of the clubhouse and on the exterior, as well,” said Dylan Frittelli, who lives in Austin and is playing the Match Play for the first time this week. “It was pretty tough to get through all the protocols. I'm sure they'll have stuff in place.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

The PGA Tour told The Associated Press on Monday that it doesn't comment on the specifics of its security measures, but that the safety of players and fans is its top priority. The circuit is also coordinating closely with law enforcement to ensure the safety of players and fans.

Despite the bombings, which have killed two people and injured two others, the Tour has not yet reached out to players to warn of any potential threat or advise the field about increased security.

“It’s strange,” Paul Casey said. “Maybe they are going to, but they haven’t.”

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Rosaforte Report: Faxon helps 'free' McIlroy's mind and stroke

By Tim RosaforteMarch 19, 2018, 8:00 pm

With all the talk about rolling back the golf ball, it was the way Rory McIlroy rolled it at the Arnold Palmer Invitational that was the story of the week and the power surge he needed going into the Masters.

Just nine days earlier, a despondent McIlroy missed the cut at the Valspar Championship, averaging 29 putts per round in his 36 holes at Innisbrook Resort. At Bay Hill, McIlroy needed only 100 putts to win for the first time in the United States since the 2016 Tour Championship.

The difference maker was a conversation McIlroy had with putting savant Brad Faxon at The Bears Club in Jupiter, Fl., on Monday of API week. What started with a “chat,” as McIlroy described it, ended with a resurrection of Rory’s putting stroke and set him free again, with a triumphant smile on his face, headed to this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, and Augusta National in two weeks.

The meeting with Faxon made for a semi-awkward moment for McIlroy, considering he had been working with highly-regarded putting coach Phil Kenyon since missing the cut in the 2016 PGA Championship. From “pathetic” at Baltusrol, McIlroy became maker of all, upon the Kenyon union, and winner of the BMW Championship, Tour Championship and FedExCup.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

As a professional courtesy, Faxon laid low, respecting McIlroy’s relationship with Kenyon, who also works with European stars Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer, Tommy Fleetwood and Henrik Stenson. Knowing how McIlroy didn’t like the way Dave Stockton took credit after helping him win multiple majors, Faxon let McIlroy do the talking. Asked about their encounter during his Saturday news conference at Bay Hill, McIlroy called it “more of a psychology lesson than anything else.”

“There was nothing I told him he had never heard before, nothing I told him that was a secret,” Faxon, who once went 327 consecutive holes on Tour without a three-putt, said on Monday. “I think (Rory) said it perfectly when he said it allowed him to be an athlete again. We try to break it down so well, it locks us up. If I was able to unlock what was stuck, he took it to the next level. The thing I learned, there can be no method of belief more important than the athlete’s true instinct.”

Without going into too much detail, McIlroy explained that Faxon made him a little more “instinctive and reactive.” In other words, less “mechanical and technical.” It was the same takeaway that Gary Woodland had after picking Faxon’s brain before his win in this year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Sunday night, after leading the field in strokes gained-putting, McIlroy was more elaborative, explaining how Faxon “freed up my head more than my stroke,” confessing that he was complicating things a bit and was getting less athletic.

“You look at so many guys out there, so many different ways to get the ball in the hole,” he said. “The objective is to get the ball in the hole and that’s it. I think I lost sight of that a little bit.”

All of this occurred after a conversation I had Sunday morning with swing instructor Pete Cowen, who praised Kenyon for the work he had done with his player, Henrik Stenson. Cowen attributed Henrik’s third-round lead at Bay Hill to the diligent work he put in with Kenyon over the last two months.

“It’s confidence,” Cowen said. “(Stenson) needs a good result for confidence and then he’s off. If he putts well, he has a chance of winning every time he plays.”

Cowen made the point that on the PGA Tour, a player needs 100-110 putts per week – or an average of 25-27 putts per round – to have a chance of winning. Those include what Cowen calls the “momentum putts,” that are especially vital in breaking hearts at this week’s WGC-Dell Match Play.

Stenson, who is not playing this week in Austin, Texas, saw a lot of positives but admitted there wasn’t much he could do against McIlroy shooting 64 on Sunday in the final round on a tricky golf course.

“It's starting to come along in the right direction for sure,” Stenson said. “I hit a lot of good shots out there this week, even though maybe the confidence is not as high as some of the shots were, so we'll keep on working on that and it's a good time of the year to start playing well.”

Nobody knows that better than McIlroy, who is hoping to stay hot going for his third WGC and, eventually, the career Grand Slam at Augusta.

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Golf's Olympic format, qualifying process remain the same

By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 6:25 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Potential Olympic golfers for the 2020 Games in Tokyo were informed on Monday that the qualification process for both the men’s and women’s competitions will remain unchanged.

According to a memo sent to PGA Tour players, the qualification process begins on July 1, 2018, and will end on June 22, 2020, for the men, with the top 59 players from the Olympic Golf Rankings, which is drawn from the Official World Golf Ranking, earning a spot in Tokyo (the host country is assured a spot in the 60-player field). The women’s qualification process begins on July 8, 2018, and ends on June 29, 2020.

The format, 72-holes of individual stroke play, for the ’20 Games will also remain unchanged.

The ’20 Olympics will be held July 24 through Aug. 9, and the men’s competition will be played the week before the women’s event at Kasumigaseki Country Club.