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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Van Rooyen holes putt after ball-marker ruling

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 4:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Erik van Rooyen was surveying his 10-footer for par, trying to get a feel for the putt, when his putter slipped out of his hand and dropped onto his ball marker.

The question, then, was whether that accident caused his coin to move.

The rules official looked at various camera angles but none showed definitively whether his coin moved. The ruling was made to continue from where his coin was now positioned, with no penalty.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

This was part of the recent rules changes, ensuring there is no penalty if the ball or ball maker is accidently moved by the player. The little-used rule drew attention in 2010, when Ian Poulter accidentally dropped his ball on his marker in Dubai and wound up losing more than $400,000 in bonus and prize money.

After the delay to sort out his ruling Friday, van Rooyen steadied himself and made the putt for par, capping a day in which he shot even-par 71 and kept himself in the mix at The Open. He was at 4-under 138, just two shots off the clubhouse lead.

“I wanted to get going and get this 10-footer to save par, but I think having maybe just a couple minutes to calm me down, and then I actually got a different read when I sat down and looked at it again,” he said. “Good putt. Happy to finish that way.”

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Lyle birdies last hole in likely his final Open start

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 4:32 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – If this was Sandy Lyle’s final Open appearance, he went out in style.

Playing on the final year of his automatic age exemption, the 60-year-old Scot buried a 30-foot birdie on the last hole. He missed the cut after shooting 9-over 151 over two rounds.

“I was very light-footed,” he said. “I was on cloud nine walking down the 18th. To make birdie was extra special.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Lyle, who also won the 1988 Masters, has missed the cut in his last eight majors, dating to 2014. He hasn’t been competitive in The Open since 1998, when he tied for 19th.

To continue playing in The Open, Lyle needed to finish in the top 10 here at Carnoustie. He’d earn a future exemption by winning the Senior British Open.

“More punishment,” he said.

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DJ, Thomas miss cut at Open; No. 1 up for grabs

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 3:35 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The top two players in the world both missed the cut at The Open, creating the possibility of a shakeup at the top of the rankings by the end of the weekend.

Dustin Johnson became the first world No. 1 since Luke Donald in 2011 to miss the cut at the year’s third major.

Johnson played solidly for all but the closing stretch. Over two rounds, he was 6 over par on the last three holes. He finished at 6-over 148.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Thomas added to what’s been a surprisingly poor Open record. Just like last year, when he struggled in the second round in the rain at Royal Birkdale, Thomas slumped to a 77 on Friday at Carnoustie, a round that included three consecutive double bogeys on Nos. 6-8. He finished at 4-over 146.

It’s Thomas' first missed cut since The Open last year. Indeed, in three Open appearances, he has two missed cuts and a tie for 53rd.  

With Johnson and Thomas out of the mix, the No. 1 spot in the rankings is up for grabs this weekend.

Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm all can reach No. 1 with a victory this week.

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TT Postscript: Woods (71) makes cut, has work to do

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 3:32 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Here are a few things I think I think after Tiger Woods shot a second consecutive even-par 71 Friday in the second round. And yes, he made the cut:

• Tiger said all 71s are not created equal. On Thursday, he made three birdies and three bogeys. On Friday, he made four birdie and four bogeys. Which round was better? The first. His theory is that, despite the rain, conditions were easier in the second round and there were more scoring opportunities. He didn't take advantage.

• This is the first time since the 2013 Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes that Tiger shot par or better in each of the first two rounds of a major. That’s quite a long time ago.

• Stat line for the day: 11 of 15 fairways, 13 of 18 greens, 32 total putts. Tiger hit one driver and two 3-woods on Thursday and four drivers on Friday, only one which found the fairway. An errant drive at the second led to him sniping his next shot into the gallery


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

• In his own words: “I could have cleaned up the round just a little bit. I got off to not exactly the best start, being 2 over through three, but got it back. The golf course was a little bit softer today, obviously. It rains, and we were able to get the ball down a little bit further, control the ball on the ground a little bit easier today, which was nice.”

• At some point Tiger is going to have to be more aggressive. He will be quite a few shots off the lead by day’s end and he'll have a lot of ground to make up. Hitting irons off the tee is great for position golf, but it’s often leaving him more than 200 yards into the green. Not exactly a range for easy birdies.

• Sure, it’s too soon to say Tiger can’t win a fourth claret jug, but with so many big names ahead of him on the leaderboard, it’s unlikely. Keep in mind that a top-six finish would guarantee him a spot in the WGC: Bridgestone Invitational in two weeks. At The Players, he stated that this was a big goal.

• My Twitter account got suspended momentarily when Tiger was standing over a birdie putt on the 17th green. That was the most panicked I’ve been since Tiger was in contention at the Valspar.