McIlroy withdraws as poor form continues
Defending champion Rory McIlroy quit midway through his round claiming he was in a "bad place mentally", the overnight leaders plummeted down the leaderboard and Tiger Woods barely made the cut on a action-packed second day of the Honda Classic.
The drama began early as McIlroy, ranked number one in the world, began on the back nine at the Palm Beach Gardens course and played his opening eight holes of the round in seven over par. The Northern Irishman then found the water at the 18th - his ninth hole - and immediately quit the tournament.
That was followed by overnight leader Camilo Villegas signing for a 77 that saw him miss the cut by one shot, a fate barely avoided by Tiger Woods who went round in 70 for the second straight day. Luke Guthrie emerged from the chaos with a one-shot lead ahead of Michael Thompson.
But there was no doubt that McIlroy's departure was the main event of the day.
"I'm not in a great place mentally," he told reporters as he left the course, according to ESPN.com. "I can't really say much, guys. I'm just in a bad place mentally.''
McIlroy then released a statement through the PGA Tour, citing wisdom tooth pain for his exit. He said: "I sincerely apologise 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 [painkiller] Advil.
"It was very painful again this morning, and I was simply unable to concentrate. It was really bothering me and had begun to affect my playing partners."
McIlroy has 14 days to submit written evidence to the PGA to support his claim, with a fine or suspension possible if the body is not satisfied with his explanation. He was playing in a group with Open champion Ernie Els and American Mark Wilson.
His statement continued: "I came here with every intention of defending my Honda Classic title. Even though my results haven't revealed it, I really felt like I was rounding a corner. This is one of my favourite tournaments of the year and I regret having to make the decision to withdraw, but it was one I had to make."
The 23-year-old has struggled to rediscover the form that has elevated him to the top of the world rankings, highlighted by his first-round exit at the Accenture Match Play Championship to Shane Lowry. He signed a lucrative sponsorship deal with Nike last month and his performances with their clubs have fallen below expectations.