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A Good Walk Spoiled

When world #1, Rory McIlroy, walked off on the 9th fairway during the second round of the Honda Championship last Friday, he committed one of professional golf’s most cardinal sins. He quit. A huge no-no.

He had just hit his second shot to the ninth green into the water and was already 7-over par for his first 8 holes. He would have surely missed the cut at a tournament at which he was the defending champion.

It would be a complete and inglorious start to his 2013 season that began with a pair of 75’s in Dubai and a missed cut. That was followed by an equally lackluster performance at the Accenture World Matchplay where he was bounced in the first round and now this, his third competitive event of the year.

Immediately after the round McIlroy spoke to three reporters and relayed that at the moment, he wasn’t in a “good place mentally”. In the next hour he would also tweet that the reason for his walking off was that he was in terrible pain because of a wisdom tooth.

Addressing the media on Wednesday of this week here is what McIlroy had to say; “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. I regret what I did. But it’s over now and it won’t happen again.”

He would also very forthrightly admit that the wisdom tooth was not a reason to have ended his round and that he loved his new equipment.

As we have recorded in an earlier blog, changing equipment is a very difficult thing for a professional to adjust to. McIlroy switched to Nike equipment in January in a massive endorsement deal that is said to be worth in excess of 20 million (US) dollars each year.

He is also struggling with the mechanical aspects of his game. Here is what he continued to say in Wednesday’s press conference, “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.”

The glass bowl that any high profile athlete or celebrity in today’s world lives in is so much more transparent than at any other time. Every public movement they record is most likely to be….recorded. Every word they say is publicly repeated and any action they make is cause for discussion. Those are the unavoidable trappings of fame. All part of the framework that comes with being the world’s best golfer.

Rather than try to “spin” his way out of this, the 23 year old McIlroy very publicly came forward and owned up to his mistakes. A very difficult thing for anyone to do, but especially for the young Northern Irishman, as this is really the first time that he has been on the wrong side of the media.

He ended Wednesday’s press conference with the following:

“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,” he said. “There’s no excuse for quitting and it doesn’t set a good example for the kids watching me. 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 with what I did last week.”

There are a lot of older players/athletes who would be well advised to learn from how McIlroy handled himself.