PALM BEACH GARDENS: Well after World No. 1 Rory McIlroy had withdrawn from the Honda Classic during the second round with a toothache, unheralded American Luke Guthrie took the lead of the US PGA event.
Guthrie fired a bogey-free 63, seven-under par, to grab a one-stroke lead over countryman Michael Thompson on nine-under 131 after 36 holes of the $6 million tournament on a day when McIlroy’s walkout stole the major attention.
McIlroy, who missed the cut in Abu Dhabi and was ousted in the first round last week at the World Golf Championships Match Play event in his only prior starts this year, continued to struggle with his new Nike equipment.
After starting on the back nine, McIlroy had a double bogey, triple bogey and two bogeys before finding the water off the tee at the 18th and leaving behind playing partners Ernie Els and Mark Wilson as he walked off the course.
“I sincerely apologise to The Honda Classic and PGA Tour for my sudden withdrawal,” McIlroy said. “I have been suffering with a sore wisdom tooth, which is due to come out in the near future.
“I was simply unable to concentrate. It was really bothering me and had begun to affect my playing partners.” And as McIlroy’s bid to repeat as champion ended in tatters, World No. 2 Tiger Woods fared little better. The 14-time major champion fired his second 70 in a row to make the cut only on the number.
Woods birdied the fourth and par-3 fifth holes but made bogeys on the next two holes. He closed the front nine with a birdie, stumbled to a double bogey at the par-4 13th but birdied 14 and parred in to reach the weekend.
“I’ve got to get something going,” Woods said. “There are 70 guys within nine shots of the lead. It’s pretty well bunched. I’ve got to give myself a good chance to win it.” Leader Guthrie, by contrast, is a tour rookie whose best finish in his eight prior PGA events was a share of fifth at last year’s John Deere Classic. But he pulled off the round of the day to move atop the leaderboard.
MALARIA RUMOUR DENIED
Golf officials denied rumours of a malaria outbreak on the LPGA Tour on Saturday after Natalie Gulbis and Pak Se-Ri pulled out of the HSBC Women’s Champions due to illness and staff members also fell sick.
Tournament officials said South Korea’s Pak had been cleared of malaria, while Gulbis was awaiting test results but attended a function in Singapore on Friday and did not appear to be seriously ill.
“Pak Se-Ri withdrew this week due to illness. She does not have malaria, just flu-like symptoms,” said a spokesperson for the LPGA Tour.
“Natalie Gulbis withdrew from the event on Friday due to illness. She is getting checked in Singapore, but has not been given a diagnosis yet. LPGA officials are in contact with both players.” Some of the LPGA’s rules officials have also fallen ill but they have not been diagnosed with malaria and were still going about their duties, officials added.