Friday, May 25, 2018

McIlroy quits in middle of round

PALM BEACH GARDENS — Rory McIlroy left before his round was over. Tiger Woods had to rally just to stick around.

With all that drama Friday in the Honda Classic, few noticed that Luke Guthrie shot 7-under 63 to lead after two rounds at PGA National.

Guthrie, pegged by many peers as a rookie worth watching, played bogey-free. After finishing his round, he walked into an interview room when someone mentioned McIlroy walked off the course after being 7-over par through eight holes.

"I had no clue," Guthrie said.

He was at 9-under 131 and led Michael Thompson by one.

McIlroy, starting on the back nine, had double bogey on his second hole and rinsed two balls in the water on No. 16 on his way to triple bogey.

He hit his approach to the 18th in the water and never finished the hole. He shook hands with Ernie Els and Mark Wilson and was on his way but not before conflicting messages.

He told three reporters who followed him to his car that it was nothing physical but that he was "not in a good place mentally." An hour later, he released a statement through his management company that he couldn't concentrate because of a sore wisdom tooth.

Woods made the cut on the number at par 140 with two 70s. After double bogey on No. 13, Woods had a 5-foot birdie, a 6-foot par on No. 16, a par save from the back bunker on the 17th that was easier than it looked, and a par save from near the grandstand by the 18th green that was harder than it looked.

"I didn't quite have my game like I did (Thursday)," Woods said. "I hit it much better (Thursday), but I putted better today, so it all evened out."

Also having a tough time was tennis star Serena Williams, following in Woods' large gallery. The local resident took a picture of the 14-time major champion after his tee shot on the 17th and was scolded by security. The PGA Tour does not allow photos on competition days.

"Apparently u can't take pics. This security (got) mad and yelled at me," she tweeted. "In my Defense peeps always take pics of tennis players."

A few minutes later, she posted the photo.

Former Florida star Camilo Villegas, who led after opening with 64, was out of the tournament after his 77. The last player to miss the cut after leading Round 1 was Jim Renner at the Travelers Championship in 2011.

Meanwhile McIlroy, in three tournaments since switching to Nike equipment from Titleist, has missed the cut in Abu Dhabi, lost in the first round of the WGC-Match Play Championship and withdrew after 26 holes at PGA National.

"His demeanor looks a little different," said Graeme McDowell, one of his best friends. "I felt like he was a little off with his golf swing on the range. There were a few moans and groans coming from the bay next to me. It's normally a display. It's normally a clinic."

In the parking lot, McIlroy was asked three times if anything was wrong physically and he said no. Golfweek magazine reported he was near tears.

And by quitting in the middle of a round, he is ineligible for the Vardon Trophy he won last year for having the lowest scoring average on the PGA Tour.