GOLF COMMENTARY

Wins can solve McIlroy’s mess

The Associated PressMarch 5, 2013 

Honda Classic Golf

Golf star Rory McIlroy has faced some heat after abruptly pulling out of the Honda Classic last week.

WILFREDO LEE — AP

DORAL, Fla.

THE STATEMENT released by his handlers was almost as bad as the kid’s decision to walk out on the tournament.

It was the first big mistake of his career, at a time when the golf world was enthralled by such a young talent. He was criticized by the press and by his peers for his selfish behavior, though there was hope that he at least would learn from his mistake.

This was Tiger Woods, 1996.

In his fourth straight PGA Tour event since turning pro, the 20-year-old Woods effectively locked up a spot on tour with his tie for third in the B.C. Open. The next week he had another sponsor’s exemption to the Buick Challenge. Woods showed up at Callaway Gardens before abruptly leaving town, and IMG released a statement that he was exhausted. It looked even worse when Woods didn’t even stick around for the Fred Haskins Award dinner to honor him as college player of the year.

Eleven days later, Woods won in Las Vegas, and all was forgotten.

That’s the best way out for Rory McIlroy. Good golf goes a long way.

McIlroy laid the foundation for seeking forgiveness in a 25-minute telephone interview Sunday night with Sports Illustrated. He said what everyone else suspected: It was frustration over his game and not pain from his wisdom tooth that led him to walk out on the Honda Classic just eight holes into his second round. He was 7-over par, and with his second shot in the water on No. 18, it was about to get worse.

So he turned in his scorecard and bolted for the parking lot.

“What I should have done is take my drop, chip it on, try to make a 5 and play my hardest on the back nine, even if I shot 85,” McIlroy told the magazine. “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.”

Expect to hear much of the same when he speaks Wednesday at Doral.

Most reasonable people know by now that Boy Wonder made a boyish blunder. Jack Nicklaus weighed in by saying if only McIlroy had waited five more minutes, he would have thought the better of leaving. There’s nothing McIlroy can do to change that now, and nothing he can say that will change anyone’s opinion.

“When it comes to being where he’s at, you’ve got to maybe think a little bit more than two minutes,” Ernie Els said. “In a couple of years’ time, he won’t even think about this or talk about this. If he wins this week, it will be the last thing we talk about. It will be history, and that’s what it should be. It’s something that’s happened and we should move on from that. He’s a great kid. He’s a great player. And if he admits he’s made a mistake, then that’s that, and let’s move on.”

McIlroy has played 80 holes in three tournaments this year — a missed cut, a first-round loss in the Match Play Championship, and a withdrawal. He has gone through rough patches before. It was 10 months ago that he missed four cuts in five tournaments. His shoulders sagged. He threw a few clubs.

But he never walked off the course without finishing, and that makes you wonder if his psyche is really that fragile.

He has two more tournaments on his schedule before the Masters, and the good news about Doral is that it’s a World Golf Championship with no cut. McIlroy is guaranteed four rounds for the first time this year. The first step is his news conference today.

For McIlroy, honesty will go a long way toward putting this behind him.

Winning will go even further.

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