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.

News
people
News
A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
News
politicsIs David Cameron trying to prove he's down with the kids?
News
Cumberbatch was speaking on US television when he made the comment (Getty)
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
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

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea