McIlroy quits midway through round; blames toothache

Defending champion Rory McIlroy today pulled out of the Honda Classic at Palm Beach Gardens after making a wretched start to his second round - and then blamed a toothache on his poor performance.

The Northern Irishman, ranked number one in the world, began on the back nine and played his opening eight holes of the round in seven over par.

He then found the water at the 18th – his ninth hole – and immediately quit the tournament, the PGA Tour announced.

McIlroy had a level-par 70 yesterday, but was set to miss the cut after his flurry of dropped shots before deciding enough was enough. He had double-bogeyed the 11th, taken a seven at the par-four 16th, and also given shots away at the 13th and 17th holes.

The 23-year-old has struggled to rediscover the form that has elevated him to the top of the world rankings so far in 2013, highlighted by his first-round exit at the Accenture Match Play Championship to Ireland’s Shane Lowry last week.

He signed a lucrative sponsorship deal with Nike last month and his performances with the manufacturer’s clubs have been below expectations.

McIlroy also missed the cut at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship by four shots last month.

The PGA Tour reported on its website it was the first time McIlroy has ever withdrawn during a tournament.

Speaking after his steady opening round, McIlroy admitted he was struggling with his game.

He said: “It’s hard to commit to the shot that you need to play every time. I felt like I hit the ball okay, not as good as I can, but it’s getting there.”

The link between McIlroy’s slump in form and his new clubs has already been speculated on, but he has dismissed concerns about distance control.

“Distance control has actually been one of the easiest things to get adjusted to,” McIlroy said yesterday.

“I hit a couple out there that went a little further than I expected. I don’t know if they just got up in the wind or whatever, but I hit a wedge on the eighth hole, which I felt like it went a long way, pitched 10 yards over the pin. But you know, apart from that, it feels pretty good.”

The PGA Tour said a statement was expected shortly explaining McIlroy’s walk-off.

American Michael Thompson led on eight under par, one shot ahead of Australian Geoff Ogilvy, with England's Lee Westwood third on six under.

Thompson was in the first group off from the first tee this morning and was playing the 18th. He and Ogilvy were both five under for the day, with Westwood two under today through 13 holes.

McIlroy’s compatriot Graeme McDowell was tied for fourth on five under.

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