The shocking aspect was not that Rory McIlroy withdrew from a golf tournament with a toothache, although – judging by the “A golfer quit because of what?” captions on photos of tooth-deprived Bobby Clarke and Duncan Keith that made the rounds – hockey fans did find the pain threshold amusing.
No, what got the sporting world’s shorts in a knot Friday morning was that for the first time in anyone’s memory, Rory McIlroy, the fresh prince of golf, the Northern Irish ray of sunshine, the 23-year-old world No. 1, did an uncool thing.
He walked off the course in the middle of his ninth hole of the day, the par-5 18th at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., after hitting his approach to the green into the water.
He was already seven-over-par through eight holes of the second round of the Honda Classic, with two bogeys, a double-bogey and a triple-bogey.
Three reporters intercepted him in the parking lot, where he said: “There’s not really much I can say, guys. I’m not in a good place mentally, you know.” Then he climbed in his car and drove the 12-minute drive back to his home in Jupiter.
A statement he released later said that pain from a wisdom tooth had made it difficult to concentrate, a belated excuse that spawned an outbreak of jokes along the lines of: “Are you sure he didn’t say he was in a bad place dentally?”
And so, cue the psychological examination.