Rory McIlroy's Walk-Off at Honda Classic Is Poor Sign from World No. 1

Dan Talintyre@@dantalintyreSenior Analyst IIMarch 2, 2013

PALM BEACH GARDENS, FL - MARCH 01:  World number one and defending champion, Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland walks off the course on the 18th hole, his nineth during the second round of the Honda Classic on March 1, 2013 in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy's walk-off at the recent 2013 Honda Classic—for whatever reason he'll end up using—is a very poor sign from the world's best golfer.

Whether it be the toothache story that emerged after he'd already made his way home, mid-tournament, or simply the mental and psychological reasons that McIlroy seemed to suggest as he immediately left the grounds—either way, it isn't a good look from the champion.

It simply looks like he's the spoilt little kid who wasn't getting his way and decided to pack up and leave the competition because of it. Which, for the current world No. 1 and supposed hottest up-and-coming star on tour, really is quite a poor sign and action.

McIlroy's walk-off happened at the second day of the Honda Classic, where the Irishman was struggling to get momentum going and consistently hit the greens.

His approach shot to the ninth hole went into the water, and having already shot seven-over par from the opening eight holes of the day, decided he'd had enough.

And then the excuses started to come out.

Reporters via the National Post originally quoted him from the carpark, where he was getting ready to make his way home, saying that "there’s not really much I can say, guys—I’m not in a good place mentally, you know." Yet by the end of the day, that story had changed entirely, with the current world No. 1 now reportedly suffering from a toothache injury that forced him into withdrawal.

Gene Wojciechowski of ESPN.com commented that:

McIlroy is taking a public relations hit, to be sure. The defending Honda champion quit in the middle of a disastrous round, said he was in "a bad place mentally," made no mention of any injury (echoed by his management company), but then later issued a statement saying he couldn't continue because of pain related to his wisdom teeth? A photo of him biting on a sandwich shortly before his departure doesn't help, either.

Whilst we don't yet know if the Irishman's walk-off was physical or psychological (or a little bit of both), what we do know is that it comes at the end of a more-than-frustrating period of time for him, having completed just 62 stroke-play holes in more than three months.

He missed the cut at Abu Dhabi and was eliminated in the Accenture Match Play first round last week—something that few would have seen coming. 

He'll now be spending his time trying to work on his "reasoning" as to why he doesn't deserve a fine from the PGA for walking off during the round. Which, if it turns out it wasn't completely physical, truly is a poor sign from the reigning world champion.

Every athlete in every sport has bad days—both physical and mental. Every athlete has form slumps and streaks, and the true test of character comes in how they perform when they're under pressure and not feeling like a million dollars.

Imagine what would have happened if Michael Jordan's flu was too much, and he never took the court against the Utah Jazz that day? Imagine if every time that Joe Flacco threw an interception during the regular season he decided to simply give up and not play in the playoffs this year?

McIlroy is no different to either of those guys here—he simply should have kept playing and churned out a horrible round at the Honda Classic. He should have fronted up to the media, delivered his short and punchy statement about not playing well and needing to find a groove again, and then he could have quickly hurried away to hide inside his house for a few days.

Which he inevitably did; he just cut out a few steps in the middle.

Like finishing the tournament.

McIlroy just signed a £78 million deal with Nike not that long ago, which makes his walk-off no doubt infuriating for those trying to break into the sport. For any athlete who's pushed through their game with a toothache or worse, it's no doubt a frustrating thing to see.

His playing partner on the day and golfing veteran Ernie Els said via Associated Press’s Doug Ferguson (h/t National Post) that:

I was just dropping my ball and I realized he wasn't dropping his ball. When I hit my fourth shot, he just came up and said, 'Here's my card. I'm out of here.' I'm a great fan of Rory's, but I don't think that was the right thing to do.

And from what we can see, he couldn't be more correct.

The World No. 1 needs to learn his position within the sport and how he must act professionally—something that McIlroy simply didn't do Saturday.

Tiger Woods said (via James Corrigan, The Telegraph) that McIlroy needs to "just got to think about it a little bit more before you say something or do something." Which, given all that he's been through in the past few years, shows just how serious and wrong the World No. 1 was to act the way that he did.

For now, all we can hope is McIlroy gets a little more wisdom into him as to how to handle a situation like this again—be that from Els, Woods or otherwise.

Heck, his toothache might even be a good place to start.

Do you think Rory McIlroy was right to walk off at the Honda Classic?

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