HONDA CLASSIC

Rory McIlroy withdraws from Honda Classic; Luke Guthrie takes lead

 

Rory McIlroy withdrew from the Honda Classic, citing an aching wisdom tooth. Meanwhile, rookie Luke Guthrie shot a 63 to take the lead and Tiger Woods barely made the cut.

Honda Classic leaderboard

Player R2 Par
1. Luke Guthrie63-9
2. Michael Thompson65-8
T3. Boo Weekley67-7
T3. Graham DeLaet68-7
T5. Lee Westwood68-6
T5. Geoff Ogilvy66-6
T5. Doug LaBelle II68-6
T5. Charles Howell III67-6
T5. Sean O’Hair68-6
T5. Justin Rose66 -6

Third Round: 1 p.m., GOLF;

3 p.m., NBC


Special to The Miami Herald

So much for that much-expected, much-anticipated, much-hyped duel between Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods.

Won’t happen.

Can’t happen.

That became a certainty Friday when McIlroy dropped out of The Honda Classic, presumably to make a dental appointment. Midway through Friday’s second round on the Champion Course at PGA National Resort & Spa, McIlroy decided he could not continue playing because of a painful wisdom tooth.

Of course, at the time, McIlroy was also suffering the pain of being 7-over-par for the round through only eight holes, and in addition he had just hit his second shot into the water on his ninth hole, which was actually hole No. 18 since he started on the back nine.

After his last shot splashed down, McIlroy shook hands with playing partners Ernie Els and Mark Wilson and strode off the course toward the parking lot.

In actuality, the tournament came close to losing both McIlroy, the world’s No. 1 player, and Woods, the world’s No. 2 player. Woods needed to play the final five holes, including the treacherous Bear Trap stretch, in 1-under just to make it to the cut line at even-par 140.

“I’ve got to get something going here,” Woods said of any chance of winning the tournament.

Unlike McIlroy, one person not feeling any pain Friday was Luke Guthrie, even though you almost had to feel sorry for him. Guthrie, a rookie who has never won on the PGA Tour, played the round of his life, shooting a 7-under 63 for a two-day total of 9-under 131 and a one-shot lead.

However, nobody seemed to notice. All the talk centered on McIlroy’s abrupt exit.

McIlroy did not speak afterward, but issued a statement:

“I sincerely apologize to The Honda Classic and PGA Tour for my sudden withdrawal. 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, so I relieved it with Advil.

“It was very painful again this morning, and I was simply unable to concentrate. I regret having to make the decision to withdraw, but it was one I had to make.”

PGA rules state, “During a round, a player may withdraw because of injury or other disability which requires medical attention, or serious personal emergency.” However, the player must within a 14-day period submit written evidence to the PGA supporting the reason for withdrawal.

Ernie Els, one of McIlroy’s playing partners on Friday, said, “Hey, if something was bothering him, it was bothering him, and all the credit to him trying to play through whatever pain he was in. He obviously couldn’t do it after nine holes anymore. He’s feeling terrible about it, I know he is.

“Toothache, it’s not fun, I guess.”

Wilson, the other player with McIlroy and Els, was surrounded by interviewers after he finished his round. He knew they were not there to talk about him being seven strokes off the lead.

“Let me guess what you’re going to ask me,” he said, getting some laughs. He was then peppered with questions about McIlroy leaving.

Guthrie, the tournament leader, finished his round and was asked at what time on the course he learned about McIlroy dropping out.

“I had no clue,” he said. “I just learned walking through this door [to the interview room].”

Guthrie, an unassuming 23-year-old who was busy winning the Big 10 golf championship for Illinois less than a year ago, combined four birdies on the front with three on the back and had no bogeys — a more-than-solid round.

Guthrie’s brother, Zach, is his caddie, and Luke was asked if he was comfortable with that. He smiled and said, “I’m still just getting used to the fact of having a caddie. Nine months ago, I was carrying my own bag.”

Michael Thompson, a 27-year-old who attended Alabama, was one shot back in second after shooting a 5-under 65 for a two-day total of 132. Boo Weekley (67) and Graham DeLaet (68) were another stroke back.

First-day leader Camilo Villegas took a free fall, shooting a 77 — which was 13 strokes worse than his opening 64 — and he did not make the cut.

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