They might have overplayed the toothache excuse last Friday but Rory McIlroy’s management has now moved to defuse Wednesday’s face-to-face with the media by arranging an exclusive US magazine interview in which the world No 1 admits that walking off the course at the Honda Classic last Friday “was not the right thing to do.”
In a move clearly designed to take the pressure off McIlroy ahead of his news conference at the WGC-Cadillac Championship at in Miami - not to mention irritate the legions of eager reporters preparing to descend on Doral - McIlroy told Michael Bamberger of Sports Illustrated’s Golf.com that he was “seeing red” when he walked off the course after completing just eight holes of his second round and that his toothache was an easy excuse.
No real surprise there.
“It was a reactive decision,” McIlroy told the magazine. “What I should have done is take my drop, chip it on, try to make a five and play my hardest on the back nine, even if I shot 85. What I did was not good for the tournament, not good for the kids and the fans who were out there watching me — it was not the right thing to do.”
What a shame he didn’t say that in his statement on Friday.
When McIlroy left the course that morning, he told the reporters pictured above by Getty Images’ Stuart Franklin that he was “not in a good place mentally”.
This excuse appeared to clash with a press release issued by his management company no more than an hour later saying he was in pain because of a problem with a wisdom tooth and did not want to distract his playing partners with his poor play.
According to the interview, McIlroy admits that the wisdom tooth story was just an excuse though his bottom right impacted wisdom tooth, which is being treated by his childhood dentist in Belfast, was causing him pain and will be extracted after the US Open.
Dropping seven shots in eight holes was even more painful and when hit his second shot into the water on his ninth hole, the 18th, he admitted to himself, “I don’t want to be here.”
McIlroy revealed that it was his faulty swing and not the multi-million dollar move to Nike that was the true cause of his meltdown. There is no mention of the problems he told Jack Nicklaus he was having with his irons last Monday.
“The driver and the ball took some time to get used to, but I had weeks at Nike before the start of the year, and I feel comfortable with all the equipment,” he said. “The problem is, I’m bringing the club too upright on the backswing then dropping it in too much on the downswing.”
McIlroy’s manager Conor Ridge also took advantage to shoot down the stories speculating that the 23-year old had split up with his girlfriend, tennis player Caroline Wozniacki, explaining that the couple had been in telephone contact over the weekend.
According to Golf.com: “McIlroy told Ridge he wasn’t reading any of the commentary about his withdrawal and that he was staying off Twitter. ‘Whatever people are saying, I probably already said to myself,’ McIlroy said.”
Criticised in the past for his inability to dig deep, McIlroy admitted that he need to be more like Tiger Woods, who never gives up no matter how poorly he is playing.
“He might be the best athlete ever, in terms of his ability to grind it out,” McIlroy said on Sunday night. “I could have a bit more of that, if I’m honest.”
It would be no great surprise after a 25-minute interview that Golf.com had more revelations on Tuesday, leaving the media with little “news” to report from the McIlroy press conference on Wednesday.