Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

Rory McIlroy's walk-off... is the 'Curse of Nike' at work?

Rory McIlroy has been dogged by bad luck since signing a £78m Nike deal
Rory McIlroy has been dogged by bad luck since signing a £78m Nike deal

The world's top golfers have been weighing into the furore over Rory McIlroy's sensational walk-off at the Honda Classic.

McIlroy initially told members of the media he was in a bad place mentally after exiting during the second round in Florida last Friday.

But a statement was later released by the PGA Tour in which the 23-year-old said severe pain from a wisdom tooth had led to his withdrawal.

It wasn't long before it emerged that he had said nothing about his ailment to playing partners Ernie Els and Mark Wilson, and that he had been seen eating a large sandwich shortly before he walked off, having put his second shot on the ninth hole into a lake.

Things haven't run smoothly for the Northern Irish golfer since he signed a staggering £78m deal with Nike at the start of the year.

He missed the cut in his first outing as an ambassador for the sportswear giant and got knocked out in the first round of the World Match Play. And now that he has found himself in the eye of a storm, pundits have suggested he is the latest sports superstar to be jinxed by the so-called Curse of Nike, which has also brought misery to Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong and Oscar Pistorius.

McIlroy and a toothache isn't anywhere near the same league as Pistorius and guns, Armstrong and drugs, or Woods and sex; but it is a hot topic of conversation on Twitter – with many people offering messages of support and others calling him a quitter.

David Duval, the 41-year-old former world number one, who hasn't won a tournament since the 2001 Open, took to Twitter after Rory's exit.

"You never know who came to watch you play that day. How far they drove or from where they flew. That's part of why I never quit," he tweeted.

He added: "Illness or injury are the only reasons not to finish your round. As a pro you should always post your score. Bad days and bad scores are part of golf. Don't tee off if your ego can't take it."

Fellow Northern Irish golfer Graeme McDowell, McIlroy's closest friend on tour, said that his compatriot had been "a little off with his swing on the range" prior to play.

He added: "There were a few moans and groans coming from the bay next to me. That's the sign of a guy who's lacking a little technique in his swing and a little belief in his game."

G-Mac later defended McIlroy's withdrawal, saying the Holywood golfer probably had a lot on his mind.

"When you start trying to prove things to other people and you stop playing for yourself it is a very dangerous place to be," he said.

McIlroy is due to give a Press conference on Tuesday morning where he is expected to confess that severe pain and frustration with his game got the better of him in Palm Beach Gardens.

Background

The fallout over Florida has seen the 'Curse of Nike' once again trending on the internet. When Roger Federer re-signed with the sportswear giant at the start of 2008, he almost immediately lost his world number one ranking and later that year was defeated by Rafael Nadal in the Wimbledon final. Another athlete who it could be argued is jinxed by the brand is McIlroy's fellow golfing superstar Tiger Woods. The failings of the former world number one and serial sex cheat aren't down to Nike, but his transgressions and his demise on the golf course have been bad for the company's image.

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