Saturday, March 02, 2013


 By JAMES CORRIGAN reporting from Day 3 of the Honda Classic in Florida
While England’s David Lynn celebrated his first pairing with Tiger Woods here on Saturday by outscoring him by two strokes, the 14-time major winner had some words of advice for Rory McIlroy
A day on from McIlroy’s withdrawal mid-round, the focus at the Honda Classic still concentrated on the world No 1 and his mysterious exit. 
For Woods it is simple.
 “He’s just got to be more... just got to think about it a little bit more before you say something or do something,” Woods said.
In other words, do not tell the truth. The saddest part of this farce could be the ending of McIlroy’s innocence. He is too honest for his own good. 
If he had told the journalists who interviewed the defending champion immediately after his withdrawal “I have so and so wrong with my body” then there would have been no outcry. Yet he did not and there was.
McIlroy was asked three times if a physical problem had forced his premature exit. Each time he replied “no”. “I’m not in a good place mentally,” he said.
Then the story changed to a sore wisdom tooth, before a picture was released of him munching a sandwich moments before he headed for the car-park. Cue ridicule mixed with a layer or two of outrage.
The outsiders probably wonder what all the fuss is about. McIlroy was seven-over for his eight holes and was certain to miss the cut. Why should he play on when there was effectively nothing to play for? The answer was given loud and very clearly by David Duval in a series of tweets.
“Always keep fighting and trying,” wrote Duval. “You never know who came to watch you play that day. How far they drove or from where they flew. That’s part of why I never quit.
“Illness or injury are the only reasons not to finish your round. As a pro you should always post your score. It’s your responsibility. Bad days and bad scores are part of golf. Don’t tee off if your ego can’t take it.”
Duval later denied that he was talking about McIlroy, a fellow “Nike athlete”. If that is correct then the timing was a huge coincidence.
For the past decade Duval, the former world No 1, has endured a series of public meltdowns. He has been the living example that as a professional golfer you never walk off.
Of course, McIlroy is a credit to his sport in many ways. The hope must be that he apologises for his actions in his press conference at Doral on Tuesday morning. 
McIlroy has so much goodwill invested with the Press corps that they would then allow him to concentrate on the WGC Cadillac Championship. At the moment, his wretched game should be his only concern.
He has finished just 62 stroke-play holes in more than three months.
And they have been awful. He is scheduled to play only two events before the Masters and is as woefully short of competition as he is of form. 
The £78  million deal he signed with Nike is proving to be an immensely damaging distraction. It is mental, not dental; it’s in the mind, as much as it’s in the swing. His great friend Graeme McDowell summed it up perfectly.
“When you start trying to prove things to other people and you stop playing for yourself it is a very dangerous place to be,” McDowell said.
 “He is playing to prove things to the media, playing to the naysayers and people who said he shouldn’t have done what he has done.
“To me it is not equipment, it’s all technique and a little bit of belief. To me he is not swinging the club the way he was late summer last year. But he will be okay. Once he starts believing in himself again he will be back.”
As it is, Woods has wrested Masters favouritism from McIlroy. He hauled himself up to the fringes of contention here in blustery conditions for the third round, with three birdies on the front nine. But Woods lost his ball in the hazard on the par-three 17th and that double bogey meant he had to settle for his third successive level-par 70.
So with his 68, Lynn could reflect on a memorable day. At two-under he was nine back of halfway leader, America’s Luke Guthrie. 





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