Golfer Rory McIlroy, “within a half hour” of withdrawing from the PGA Tour Honda Classic on Friday, “knew that by quitting he had done the wrong thing,” according to Michael Bamberger of GOLF.com. McIlroy “drove to his home” and spoke by phone to his agent, Horizon Sports Management’s Conor Ridge. McIlroy: “By the time I got home I was saying, ‘We need to reassess here.’ ... What I did was not good for the tournament, not good for the kids and the fans who were out there watching me -- it was not the right thing to do.” Ridge said that he "was not surprised to see McIlroy take ownership of his misstep.” Ridge: “You learn more from the hard times than the good times.” Bamberger wrote, “In the grand scheme of things these are not hard times. But in the charmed life of Rory McIlroy, they are.” McIlroy on Friday cited wisdom tooth pain for his withdrawal, and yesterday his dentist, Mark Conroy, “faxed a letter to the PGA Tour offices describing McIlroy’s condition with both of his lower wisdom teeth.” However, the root of McIlroy's problems "came not from his teeth but, when you get right down to it, his brain" (GOLF.com, 3/4). In N.Y., Karen Crouse writes McIlroy’s exit from the tournament "throws into sharp relief the PGA Tour’s policy on withdrawals, and the unwritten code of conduct for playing on while in considerable mental or physical anguish.” PGA Tour rules state that a player “must have a persuasive reason for withdrawing during a round -- an injury that requires medical attention, or a serious personal emergency -- and must provide the tour commissioner with proof of his distress.” McIlroy’s “severely bruised ego from giving back seven strokes to par on the first eight holes Friday does not qualify as a compelling reason” (N.Y. TIMES, 3/5).
FACING THE MUSIC:FOXSPORTS.com’s Robert Lusetich notes McIlroy is “still only 23 -- still figuring out what it means to be Rory -- and he learned both ends of that ethics lesson last Friday.” His withdrawal “was -- appropriately -- roundly condemned throughout the sports world.” McIlroy acknowledged that it “wasn’t a medical emergency," which means he is “sure to face fines from the Tour.” But he “only needs money to pay those.” Repairing his “battered image won’t come so cheaply.” He is still “going to be squirming in his chair” during his pre-tournament news conference at the WGC Cadillac Championship, but the questions “will be easier to deal with now than if he’d maintained silence.” Golfer Graeme McDowell “thinks McIlroy feels pressure to justify the mega-deal -- of at least $100 million -- he signed with Nike.” McDowell said, "Everyone is saying he can’t do it with Nike equipment. This game is an extremely difficult sport, especially when you start playing for other people" (FOXSPORTS.com, 3/5).
Several MLB officials will travel to World Baseball Classic games in Miami this month "to explore potential options for an extensive expansion of instant replay," according to sources cited by Jayson Stark of ESPN.com. The officials plan to "observe which camera angles are used, determine how long it takes to see a definitive replay of close plays and estimate the amount of time it would take to review controversial calls using various systems under consideration." MLB has "all but abandoned plans to limit reviews to only fair/foul and trap/catch calls." The league is "now considering scenarios for reviewing a much wider spectrum of calls, including calls at home plate and calls on the bases." MLB still is in the "early stages of exploring which calls to review and the format under which to review them." MLB Commissioner Bud Selig recently said that the league has "run out of time to implement any changes before Opening Day." But Stark writes a "vast expansion of replay is now widely viewed within baseball circles as being likely for next season." Some officials "haven't given up hope on implementing some changes as early as midseason this year" (ESPN.com, 3/4).
CONQUERING THE WORLD? In N.Y., Tyler Kepner wrote part of the "puzzle facing Major League Baseball as it stages its global showcase" is that "none of the 16 Japanese players who appeared in the major leagues last season will participate" in this year's WBC. Many players "send mixed signals to fans about the importance of the event." The U.S. has "never played for the title, and the lack of enthusiasm of some players -- many fearing injury, despite no evidence that participation leads to greater risk -- is an obvious reason." MLB Senior VP/Int'l Business Operations Paul Archey said, “There are challenges, for sure. But we’ve only had two of these tournaments. It’s very young in its evolution. The objective is to give baseball a platform to help us grow the game globally.” Archey said that to that end, the WBC has "been an overwhelming success." Kepner notes a stadium "is under construction in Amsterdam," while attendance "is booming in the Korea Baseball Organization" and MLB now has TV partners in China. Archey said that the WBC had "generated more than" $22M for int'l federations (N.Y. TIMES, 3/2).
TAKING ITS LICKS: In San Jose, Mark Purdy writes under the header, "Why Should We Care About The WBC Tournament?" The WBC champion will be determined March 19 in the title game at AT&T Park, but Purdy asks, "Champion of what? You can't say the champion of all baseball on earth. Not when the best players aren't on the field." Giants P Matt Cain and C Buster Posey, Tigers P Justin Verlander, Angels CF Mike Trout and Nationals CF Bryce Harper are all "sitting out the WBC." It is a "bit different for international players, most of whom answer their country's call." Purdy: "How do you build up enthusiasm for a 'championship' that your sport's best customers know has such a fat asterisk attached?" Purdy continues, "If the WBC is not the ultimate global baseball event, what is it? And why should we care very much?" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 3/5). In Boston, Dan Shaughnessy sarcastically writes, "Don't try to call me during the World Baseball Classic games. I'm glued to the MLB Network. Isn't everybody?" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/5).