Kevin Garside: Quitting in mid-round is no way for a sporting champion like Rory McIlroy to behave

Failure is not in the script for double major winners paid richly to conquer

There are so many things that can derail a career, said Tony Jacklin only last Monday at St Andrews, the home of golf.

The old sage was mulling the change-of-club issue and the impact new equipment might have on the immediate career of Rory McIlroy.

Jacklin, who swaggered through the game in the late 1960s and early 70s before television was interested, dismissed the idea that the switch from the Titleist technology that delivered two majors might impede progress. Instead he raised the spectre of the random variable, the left field entry that can throw a spanner in the sweetest swings.

Jacklin probably didn’t have wisdom teeth on his mind, but then again neither did McIlroy when he quit after his ball found water on the 18th. At least he made no mention of it, leading us to believe his discomfort was cerebral, saying he wasn’t mentally “there”. Neither did his management team have any knowledge of the dental disorder, claiming he was neither hurt, sick nor answering his phone.

The cynics out there received McIlroy’s retrospective reasoning with a raised eyebrow or two, a cough, a smirk and an ‘excuse me?’ Let us be generous and hope that his teeth were giving him gyp, for to quit mid-round as defending champion and world No 1 would constitute a serious breach of sporting obligation.

Shifting to the boxing canvas, the great Roberto Duran was arguably the greatest lightweight to lace leather, he fought all-comers in their own back yards and raised his glove above the great Sugar Ray Leonard at welterweight. And then five months later in the rematch he quit on his stool. “No mas,” he said. No More. Those words carry a heavy echo whenever Duran’s name is mentioned. He later offered stomach cramps as an excuse. The damage was done.

Such is the scale of the legend enveloping McIlroy, any deviation from the soaring narrative attracts brutal scrutiny. Failure is not part of the script for 23-year-old double major winners paid hundreds of millions of dollars to conquer as Nike mannequins.

McIlroy has climbed out of troughs before, notably last year when a run of 13 top-five finishes in 15 events was followed by four missed cuts in six.

The psychoanalysts were mobilised to account for the mysterious collapse of the supernova. Relax, he said. I’ll be fine. And so he was, regrouping to claim his second major at the US PGA by eight shots and claim back-to-back victories in the Fed-Ex play-offs. In his last competitive round of 2012 he closed with five successive birdies to win in Dubai and seal the money list on both sides of the pond.

In a candid press conference toward the end of last year he spoke of the need to get away from the game in order to reconnect with the lad he used to be. Though a forlorn hope, it usually amounted to a flight to a distant corner to be with his girlfriend, the former world tennis No 1 Caroline Wozniacki. He felt their absences acutely. Maybe his discomfort yesterday was rooted in that relationship and not a tooth. The searing heat of twentysomething romance can burn as well as buoy.

Whatever is ailing him, let us hope he finds a cure soon. The Cadillac Championship and the deepest field of the year looms next week down the Florida coast in Miami.

The world was on his case the moment he chipped into a washing-machine on TV as a nipper. The Nike deal upped the ante 120 million notches. He is public property now. Quitting is not an option, toothache or not.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada