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March 2, 2013

Frustrated McIlroy walks off course at Honda

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Whether his pain was mental or dental, Rory McIlroy walked off the course in the middle of his round Friday at the Honda Classic and invited even more scrutiny of golf’s No. 1 player.

McIlroy already was 7-over par through eight holes when he hit his second shot into the water on the par-5 18th and didn’t bother hitting another shot. He shook hands with Ernie Els and Mark Wilson, turned in his scorecard and walked straight to the parking lot.

McIlroy told three reporters who followed him that he’s “not in a good place mentally.”

An hour later, his management company issued a statement that the 23-year-old McIlroy couldn’t concentrate because of a sore wisdom tooth.

His abrupt departure only added to the sloppy start to his young season, and raised concerns with the Masters just more than a month away. In three tournaments, he has missed the cut in Abu Dhabi, lost in the first round of the 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. It’s superlatives coming from the coach and the caddie. That’s the sign of a guy who’s lacking a little technique in his swing and a little belief in his game.”

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.

“There’s not really much I can say, guys,” McIlroy said. “I’m not in a good place mentally, you know?”

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