TROUBLE-HIT golfing star Rory McIlroy has said he was wrong to walk off the field of play last week.
In an interview with a sports journalist, he said his behaviour was “not good for the fans” after leaving during the middle of a round on Friday.
But the boss of the Irish Golfing Union (GUI) defended the 23-year-old Ulster star and said he may still be able to silence his critics with a change of form, following his recent run of poor performances.
At the time of the walk-off McIlroy cited toothache as the reason, leaving this message to his fans on Twitter: “Apologies to all at the Honda [tournament]. A tough day made impossible by severe tooth pain. Was desperate to defend title but couldn’t play on. Gutted.”
Then on Monday, McIlroy told US magazine Sports Illustrated that “it was a reactive decision”.
“What I did was not good for the tournament, not good for the kids and the fans who were out there watching me. It was not the right thing to do,” he was reported as saying.
Pat Finn, boss of the GUI, which helped to train McIlroy before he launched his professional career, said he believes a turnaround in form may become evident in the weeks to come.
“Hopefully he’ll go out and win this week and quieten some people,” said Mr Finn.
“Rory has a fantastic ability to quieten people with his performance. After the US Masters, he had a collapse in the final round. And he came out at the next major and won it.”
He said he would not be surprised by a big performance in weeks to come. And citing toothache as a reason for marching off during play is not as strange as some may believe, he added.
According to the Sports Illustrated report, McIlroy’s dentist is Mark Conroy, based in Belfast. When contacted, the practice manager said they could not give out any information.
But Mr Finn, 37, said: “It is amazing what the slightest discomfort will do to you on a golf course. Despite the fact it is not the same physical exertion as other sports, everything needs to be right for you to play at your fullest ability.
“It’s remarkable the correlation between something not being quite right and performance being adversely affected. The difference in golf between genius and mediocrity can be very subtle.”
McIlroy, 23, was playing in the Honda Classic at Palm Beach, Florida, when he walked off midway through his second round. He is set to play again at the WGC - Cadillac Championship in Miami, beginning from Thursday, as well as the Shell Houston Open in Humble, Texas, later this month.
Late yesterday afternoon McIlroy posted a new message on Twitter: a slogan for his sponsor, Nike.
It read: “Success isn’t given. It’s earned. On the track, on the field, in the gym. With blood, sweat and the occasional tear.”