PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — For the first time Wednesday, Rory McIlroy spoke at length about quitting the Honda Classic in the middle of Round 2 last year, stating that it was a “difficult time” for him on and off the course and that “it wasn’t my finest hour.”
He admitted that he feared he “was going to shoot 90.”
A year ago, McIlroy had just signed a mega-deal with Nike and was in the midst of changing managers. He was ranked No. 1 in the world but had recently missed the cut in Abu Dhabi and lost in the first round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
His frustration peaked at PGA National after he hit his second shot on his ninth hole into the water. He walked off the course and withdrew, later citing a toothache.
“My game wasn’t where I wanted to be,” he said Wednesday. “My mental state wasn’t quite where I needed it to be. There were a few things that were occupying my thoughts that probably didn’t need to be and shouldn’t have been …
“You should never walk off the golf course, no matter how bad things are. But I just — it was just one of those days. I just felt like I couldn’t cope with anything more, especially not the way I was headed. I was going to shoot 90. (That’s) the last thing I needed.”
He said he frustrated but not embarrassed.
“It’s not embarrassing because a lot of people in the same situation might have done the same thing,” he said. “But I’ve learned from it and moved on.”
McIlroy, who played the following week at Doral, where he finished eighth, said he didn’t realize the significance of what he had done until days later.
“A missed cut wouldn’t have been that bad instead of a withdrawal,” he said.
McIlroy, now ranked No. 8, said his game and mental state have improved greatly in the last 12 months. He has adjusted to his Nike equipment, become engaged to longtime girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki and settled into his new house in Palm Beach Gardens.
He said the Honda now feels like “a hometown event.”
“I’ve been in the house now just over a year, and every time I come here now I feel like I’m home, which is a great feeling to have,” he said. “I felt like, for the better part of two years, I didn’t really have a home; I was sort of a traveling nomad.”