Wednesday, June 19, 2013
The Associated Press
DORAL, Fla. - As if quitting in the middle of a golf tournament didn't bring Rory McIlroy enough attention, it might not let up on the golf course.
McIlroy has been going through damage control the last five days after his abrupt departure when he was 7 over par through eight holes of the second round and decided to call it quits at the Honda Classic. After an apology to Sports Illustrated, he faced the media Wednesday and took all the blame.
"I actually think in the long run, Friday will be a blessing in disguise," he said, referring to the day he withdrew last week. "It was like it just sort of released a valve, and all that 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."
The world's No. 1 player won't be able to escape the spotlight when the Cadillac Championship gets under way on Thursday at Doral.
This World Golf Championship tends to group the top players in the world ranking, meaning McIlroy gets to spend the opening two rounds with Tiger Woods and Luke Donald. And while McIlroy's behavior was questioned last week, it's his game that has been the most curious.
He played with Woods when both made their 2013 debut in Abu Dhabi, and he had rounds of 75-75 to miss the cut. Woods also missed the cut that week because of a two-shot penalty, though he flew halfway around the world the following week and won at Torrey Pines for his 75th career win.
McIlroy had a sloppy performance on Dove Mountain and lost in the first round of the Match Play Championship, and then made it through only 26 holes at PGA National.
His expectations for the week?
"Just work on my swing," he said. "Try to get my swing back."
Woods is coming off a mediocre performance in the Honda Classic, failing to break par in any of the four rounds on his way to a tie for 37th.
Woods can appreciate the scrutiny McIlroy faces. He also had some sound advice.
"We play week after week," Woods said. "Once one week ends, you have to move on the next one. And we're on a different venue and different golf course. For me over the years, I've just put it aside and moved on, whether it was good or bad, whether I won the tournament or missed the cut, whatever it may be. You move on and get ready for the next event."
With each week, the Masters gets closer.
Only a dozen players in the 65-man field at Doral are not yet in the Masters, so it's an important week for the likes of Geoff Ogilvy, Fredrik Jacobson, Richard Sterne and Charles Howell III, all of whom are trying to establish themselves in the top 50 when the final cutoff arrives at the end of the month.
And for McIlroy, it's a matter of sorting out his game.
He described his swing change as trying to put it back the way it was last summer, when he went on a tear at the end of the year by winning the PGA Championship, two FedEx Cup playoff events and the season finale in Dubai to capture the money title on the two biggest tours.
He's getting close.
"We found it," he said. "It's just a matter of getting comfortable with it. When I take the club away and try to put it in the right position, it feels very alien to me right now. But the more reps I do, the more comfortable I'm going to get with it."