Teething problems for Rory McIlroy? World number one close to tears as he walks off at Honda Classic

After hitting into water on the ninth, the world number one headed straight for the car park

Palm Beach, Florida

World No.1 Rory McIlroy stunned spectators at the Honda Classic when, close to tears, he quit the tournament after playing the first eight holes of his second round in seven over par.

He hit his second shot to the 18th green (his ninth hole) into the water, took a penalty drop, chipped on to the green then walked away without putting out, stopping only to shake hands with his playing partners Ernie Els and Mark Wilson before being escorted by police officers to a blue BMW courtesy car and heading for the exit of the PGA National golf club. “Can’t really say much, guys,” he said before driving to his home 10 minutes away. “Just not in a good place mentally.” His caddie J P Fitzgerald said McIlroy was not injured. And with that brief explanation, which was ripe for speculation, golf’s new Elvis left the building. The defending champion was gone.

So, what’s the story, no morning glory for Rory? He was hoping to find an oasis in Florida after floundering in the desert of Tucson, Arizona last week and Abu Dhabi in January. "He's not hurt. He's not sick. And he won't answer his phone. I don't know," said a representative from his management company. Was it the new Nike clubs, then? Or swing problems that he alluded to after a first round even par 70? Perhaps a family illness. Or girlfriend trouble. The answer came one hour after he had driven out through the gates. Toothache. Toothache? “I sincerely apologise to the Honda Classic and the PGA Tour for my sudden withdrawal,” came the statement from McIlroy released by his management company. “I have been suffering with a sore wisdom tooth which is due to come out in the near future. It began bothering me again last night (Thursday), so I relieved it with Advil. It was very painful again this morning and I was simply unable to concentrate. It was really bothering me and begun to affect my playing partners. I came here with every intention of defending my title. Even though my results haven’t revealed it, I really felt I was rounding a corner. This is one of my favourite tournaments of the year and I regret having to make a decision to withdraw but it was one I had to make.”

McIlroy now has 14 days to submit written evidence to the PGA Tour’s chief executive Tim Finchem to support his reason for withdrawal. It’s golf’s equivalent of the school kid presenting a note from his mum saying the dog really did eat his homework.

Shortly after this statement, McIlroy tweeted: “Apologies to all at the Honda. A tough day made impossible by severe tooth pain. Was desperate to defend title but couldn’t play on. Gutted.” It won’t have done this shaggy tooth story any good that McIlroy was photographed standing on the 18 fairway chewing a sandwich. He may also regret tweeting on Thursday night: “Having a great dinner celebrating my mum’s birthday!”

On Tuesday, a chirpy McIlroy held court playing keepy-uppy with a wedge and a golf ball at a cocktail party to announce a sponsorship deal with electronics company Bose. The joke circulating the range here was that Rory is really going to need those noise-reduction headphones now. After a first round even par 70 McIlroy was looking and sounding more chippy than chirpy. He defended his clubs and putter, blamed his swing and felt “there is something in the mid-60s out there.” But his behaviour and body language on the course told a different story. He was frustrated, hang dog, huffing and puffing, blowing his cheeks out, shaking his head and pursing his lips like he was sucking a lemon as drives missed fairways, irons missed greens and putts came up short of the hole. He sure didn’t look like he was in a good place mentally, as he cited on his withdrawal. Then there was yesterday’s capitulation on the back nine, his first nine, that included a double bogey, a triple bogey and two bogeys in eight holes that left him stranded at tied 137 of 142 competitors.

Both of McIlroy’s playing partners, Els and Wilson, said the Northern Irishman didn’t mention his increasing molar madness. “Toothache, eh?” Els said. “That’s not fun. Hey, listen, if something was bothering him, you know, it was bothering him and all credit to him trying to play through whatever pain he was in. He obviously couldn't do it after nine holes anymore.” While showing sympathy, Els also criticised McIlroy’s decision to quit. “I’m a big fan of Rory’s but I don’t think it was the right thing to do,” said Els, a former World No.1. “He’s feeling terrible about it, I know he is,” Els said. “That's the last thing he wants to do is walk off. I've played like that before. It's embarrassing. You don't want to be out there while you feel like, get me out of here. I've been around a long but I don’t recall walking off.”

With the WGC-Cadillac Championship next week along the coast at Miami, and just 42 days to the Masters at Augusta, the scrutiny of the World No.1’s state of mind and swing will ratchet up yet another level of intensity “Unfortunately, it seems like it's building now,” Els said. “I didn't think much of the equipment change. We've all made changes before. He's got a bit of pressure coming on him that way. I thought he played quite well yesterday (Thursday). He’s such a talented player, he'll get it figured out.”

McIlroy is now 17 over par for 80 holes in 2013. That’s enough to give anyone toothache. There is of course the possibility that McIlroy was misheard before he headed for the sanctuary of his Florida home. Maybe he said “Just not in a good place dentally.”

There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Arts and Entertainment
The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit director Peter Jackson with his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'