<
>

Rory: Walk-off a 'blessing in disguise'

DORAL, Fla. -- A faulty golf game and a bad attitude were more behind walking off the course than a toothache at the Honda Classic, but Rory McIlroy took responsibility for his actions and Wednesday said it would not happen again.

The No. 1-ranked golfer in the world had a news conference at the Trump Doral Resort in which nearly all of the questions centered around his shocking withdrawal on Friday from the Honda Classic when he was 7 over after just eight holes (McIlroy never finished his ninth hole of the day, No. 18 on the course).

"I realized pretty quickly that it wasn't the right thing to do,'' McIlroy said at Doral, where he will play in the WGC-Cadillac Invitational starting Thursday. "No matter how bad I was playing, I should have stayed out there. I should have tried to shoot the best score possible even though it probably wasn't going to be good enough to make the cut.

"At that point in time, I was just all over the place, I saw red, it was a mistake and everyone makes mistakes and I'm learning from them. Some people have the pleasure of making mistakes in private. Most of my mistakes are in the public eye.''

McIlroy, 23, has been under intense scrutiny since winning five times worldwide in 2012 -- including his second major championship -- and then signing a lucrative endorsement deal with Nike that required he change all 14 clubs in the bag.

So far, his results have been poor, with a missed cut and rounds of 75-75 in Abu Dhabi, a first-round exit from the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, and then last Friday's disaster in which he had hit his second shot into the water at the 18th hole (his ninth) and was looking at shooting a 9-hole score in the 40s.

He walked to his car, told a few reporters he was in a "bad place mentally,'' then headed to his Jupiter home before later releasing a statement in which he said a painful wisdom tooth was part of the reason for the withdrawal.

"Yeah, look, my tooth was bothering me, but it wasn't bothering me enough to quit,'' he said.

McIlroy said at this time he does not anticipate changing his schedule in the leadup to next month's Masters. After Doral -- a four-round tournament with no cut -- he plans to play the Shell Houston Open in three weeks.

"I actually think in the long run, Friday will be a blessing in disguise,'' McIlroy said. "It was like it just sort of released a valve and all that sort of pressure that I've been putting on myself just went away. And I was like, just go out and have fun. It's not life or death out there. It's only a game. I had sort of forgotten that this year.''

On Tuesday, Ernie Els, who was grouped with McIlroy for the first two rounds at PGA National, said he regretted not trying to talk McIlroy out of walking off the course. McIlroy acknowledged the advice would have been welcomed.

"He (Els) knows what it's like out there sometimes. But at the same time, I've learned from it and as I said, it won't happen again,'' he said.

McIlroy spoke for 25 minutes with two of his agents from Horizon Sports, Colin Morrissey and Sean O'Flaherty in attendance, along with Nike representatives, his coach Michael Bannon and a room full of media members.

•On what he learned about himself: "I learned that when the tough gets going, I've got to stick in there a bit more and I've got to grind it out. There's no excuse for quitting and it doesn't set a good example for the kids watching me, trying to emulate what I do. It wasn't good for a whole lot of reasons, for the tournaments, the people coming out watching me. I feel like I let a lot of people down and I am very sorry.''

•On his golf swing: "This year, we knew it was a little bit of a problem, and we were trying to find the balance between making a bit of a swing change and finding some playability in it so that I can actually go out there and play and not think about it.

"But we realized there's no quick fixes in golf. You just have to get to the root of the problem. … I know if I can get my takeaway fixed, the rest of the swing will follow. The takeaway has always been the biggest key for my golf swing, and I need to get back to that.''

•On the effect of the new equipment: "Now I know that it's just purely the swing. The equipment is fantastic. I have no problems at all. When I make a good swing, the ball goes where I want it and the flight I want it, so I know that it's not that. It's just getting my swing on the right path.''

•On his practice schedule since the Friday withdrawal: "I want to say we spent 10 hours at the Bear's Club on Saturday, probably the same on Sunday. Monday was a full day and then yesterday I practiced in the morning and then went to watch Man United get beat, which wasn't great. Should have stayed out and hit some more balls.''

•On his openness with the media: "Me and all you guys are hopefully going to have a working relationship for the next 20 years, so I don't want to jeopardize that by being closed. I feel like I've always been open and honest and given you guys all my thoughts. … I don't want there to be friction. It's not like I want it to be a strained relationship because it's going to be a long one, I hope.''

•On speculation that he was having difficulty in his personal life, specifically with his girlfriend, tennis player Caroline Wozniacki: "Not at all. I've read what's been written. And just because I have a bad day on the golf course and Caroline loses a match in Malaysia (last week), it doesn't mean we're breaking up. It's sport. I'd rather keep my private life as private as possible. Everything on that front is great and I'm looking forward to seeing her next week when she gets to Miami.''