air max blancas hombre McIlroy Walks Out as Concern Creeps In
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. Applause drowned out the pulsating music Tuesday night as Rory McIlroy made his way to the X taped to the carpet in the resort ballroom. McIlroy, wearing jeans, a dress shirt and pointy toed shoes, had just been introduced as the first global brand ambassador for Bose, an audio equipment company.
It was a timely merger of man and machine. If anybody needed noise canceling headphones to tune out the world, it was McIlroy, whose slow start in 2013 has generated criticism on both sides of the Atlantic.
On Friday he set more tongues lashing by abruptly withdrawing from the Honda Classic after completing eight holes of his second round. It was the first time in 55 starts as a professional on the PGA Tour that he withdrew during a tournament.
McIlroy returned this week to PGA National Resort and Spa seeking to become the 41 year old tournament’s only back to back champion besides Jack Nicklaus. Instead, the event led to his latest disappointment since he made the highly lucrative but risky move of changing his equipment from Titleist to Nike at the beginning of the year.
The week of his title defense began with McIlroy brushing off criticism in the news media in the United States and the United Kingdom over his equipment change. “It’s not like I’m pushing for answers or I’m looking for answers,” he said. “Everything’s there. It’s just a matter of putting it all together.”
Asked if reporters were making too much of it, he laughed and said: “Of course. Like yous always do with everything.”
McIlroy was not laughing Friday when he walked off the course after depositing his second shot on his ninth hole, the par 5 18th, into the water. It was his third wet ball of the day, and he stood at seven over after eight holes.
He left the grounds without offering an explanation, the first indication that the intense scrutiny that goes hand in hand with being golf’s global brand ambassador is darkening McIlroy’s sunny disposition.
Ernie Els and Mark Wilson, who were paired with McIlroy, were unaware of any physical distress that would have prompted him to retire from the tournament. McIlroy gave no hint of a problem before his round, posting on his Twitter account Thursday night a photograph of a birthday dinner for his mother, Rosie.
There is no manual for the care and maintenance of a global brand, as evidenced by the awkward handling of McIlroy’s withdrawal. Since ascending to No. 1 with his win here last year, McIlroy has tailored his tournament schedule to give himself time to recharge; hired Michael Bannon, his longtime coach and a club pro, to work with him full time; and relocated to Palm Beach County, Fla., where the sun shines brightly but the spotlight is not quite as hot.
McIlroy, who bought a multimillion dollar home in a gated community five miles from PGA National Resort and Spa, said the local populace largely left him alone.
“Palm Beach is a bit like that,” he said. “Everyone is wealthy in their own right, and they think they’re important, and they’re caught up in what they’re doing.”
McIlroy’s Nike deal is worth tens of millions of dollars, but nobody who has spent time around him believes that was his motivating factor in making the switch.
“I truly believe he didn’t leave Titleist for any money reasons,” Wilson said. “He just wants to be with a company that represents some of the best athletes in a lot of sports.”
The job of handling a golfer aligned with the best athletes on the planet falls mainly to Conor Ridge and Colin Morrissey, who founded Horizon Sports Management, the Dublin based company that has represented McIlroy since 2011. To lessen his learning curve, Ridge said, he sought out people who had guided the careers of some of the world’s most popular entertainers and sportsmen. Among them was a fellow Dubliner, Paul McGuinness, the longtime manager of U2, who told him, essentially, to never forget that performance is the engine that should drive any marketing campaign.
McIlroy’s engine is sputtering. At this event last year, he was one of two players to shoot in the 60s in all four rounds. In his even par 70 round Thursday, McIlroy took 30 strokes on the greens and made a bogey 6 at the 18th after he hit his second shot to 105 yards from the pin.
Talking to reporters afterward, McIlroy spoke more softly than usual. Somebody suggested that he sounded deflated.
“Yeah, I guess so,” he said, adding, “Wasn’t the nicest finish.”
Before Friday’s fiasco, McIlroy had demonstrated why so many in the golfing world and global marketplace regard him as a golden asset. Wednesday’s pro am was one of two pretournament events that McIlroy, as the defending champion, was obligated to take part in. Fifty two teams of four amateurs paid $28,000 for the privilege of playing with a pro from a field that included 10 of the top 20 players in the world. At the pro am draw party Tuesday night, suspense built as a giant video board paired teams with pros in a kind of electronic shuffle until only McIlroy and Tom Amanti’s foursome were left.
Diane Amanti, who had played on her high school’s boys’ golf team and competed in junior events, said she was so nervous that she slept only an hour Tuesday night. She had no reason to fret, as she came to realize early in Wednesday’s round.
After greeting his amateur partners on the first tee Wednesday morning, McIlroy took his phone out of his back pocket and surreptitiously sent a text message. On the first fairway, while waiting to hit his approach, and again on the green, McIlroy took the phone out and, cradling it in his right hand, texted with his right thumb. She had lost in the first round of a tournament in Malaysia, falling in three sets to a Chinese qualifier who was ranked 176 spots below her. McIlroy knew Wozniacki had been feeling unwell, he said later, and he wanted to check in with her before she went to sleep.
After the second hole, McIlroy packed his phone away in his golf bag. On the second tee, as they waited for the fairway to clear, he remarked to his playing partners that they were lucky to have drawn an early tee time because rain was forecast for the afternoon.
“That’s the only reason we wanted to play with you,” Diane Amanti joked. Everybody laughed, McIlroy the loudest of all.
She delivered another zinger when she playfully offered to give McIlroy her Scotty Cameron putter, the same model McIlroy used before switching to Nike, after watching him miss a few putts.
It can be easy to forget that McIlroy is only 23. Last year, at 22 years 10 months, he became the youngest winner of this event. Still, he travels in a world of high powered adults. On Monday, at a charity tournament organized by Nicklaus, McIlroy played with a foursome that had “won” him with a $100,000 bid at an auction the night before. (Asked what entertainer he would spend that kind of money to share a stage with, McIlroy thought for a few seconds before answering that he would probably choose to share a soccer pitch with his favorite team, Manchester United.)
On his walks from the greens to the tees Wednesday, McIlroy signed autographs, as many as 50 at a time. Occasionally he stopped to pose for a photograph. On one tee box, a marshal remarked that nobody among the eight pros who came through before McIlroy had stopped to sign anything.
On the 18th hole, the Welshman Jamie Donaldson, who won the event at Abu Dhabi, caught up to McIlroy in time to watch him cover the flag with his second shot.