Rory McIlroy re-enters the golfing atmosphere at the Cadillac Championship here tomorrow still carrying the stain of last week's walkout. Ernie Els, one of McIlroy's playing partners at the Honda Classic, regrets not doing more to stop him taking his leave mid-round in Florida.
McIlroy has subsequently apologised, a move welcomed by Els, who spoke at length with him at the Bears Club in Jupiter last weekend. "He was practising his tail off. He was there right through the whole day, even yesterday [Monday] he was out there in the afternoon. We did talk a little in private.
"When I shook his hand on 18, I wanted to say something to him, but I didn't, and I kind of regret that. But you know, it was definitely, obviously, a heat of the moment thing. He is who he is. You've got to respect what the individual at that moment is like, and he wanted to get off.
"We obviously heard that his wisdom tooth was bothering him, and if that was the reason, that was that. I would have been out of my depth at that stage to say something to him if something was bothering him. So I didn't, but I thought I should have."
Els was surely right when he observed that the episode will disappear quickly after McIlroy's next victory. "Listen, I was also 22, 23," he said. "I'm 43 now. I did a lot of silly things and what he's done is nothing compared to what I did. Speak to my parents. But when it comes to being where he's at, you've got to maybe think a little bit more than two minutes. He's a great kid, he's a great player and if he admits he has made a mistake, then that's that and let's move on."