By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
DORAL, Fla. -- A little self-deprecating humor can go a long way.
"I'd give myself a red card for last week," McIlroy joked, citing Manchester United's loss a day earlier, as he opened his press conference Wednesday at Trump Doral.
When the topic turned to McIlroy's decision to walk off the golf course mid-round five days ago at The Honda Classic, however, he was honest and apologetic.
"It was a mistake," McIlroy said. "Everyone makes mistakes. I'm learning from them. Some people have the pleasure of making their mistakes in private. Most of my mistakes are in the public eye."
McIlroy issued a statement after withdrawing last Friday that said he was suffering from a toothache. He reiterated Wednesday the statement was true, but he also said his mental state was not good.
"I wasn't in a good place with my golf game, my head was all over the place," McIlroy continued. "I realized pretty quickly that it wasn't the right thing to do. No matter how bad I was playing, I should have stayed out there.
"There's no excuse for quitting and it doesn't set a good example for the kids watching me. It wasn't good for a whole lot of reasons, for the tournaments, the people coming out watching me. I feel like I let a lot of people down with what I did last week. For that, I am very sorry."
McIlroy held little back in his press conference, which played to a packed interview room at the Trump Doral Resort and Spa and lasted just over a half hour.
"I learned that when the tough gets going, I've got to stick in there a bit more and I've got to grind it out," McIlroy added.
The 23-year-old World No. 1 also addressed his switch to Nike, saying his swing is the problem, not the equipment.
McIlroy spent the weekend working on the latter at The Bear's Club under the watchful eye of his instructor Michael Bannon and after Wednesday's session with the media headed out for a practice round with Graeme McDowell and Ian Poulter -- with Bannon in tow.
"I know it's purely the swing," McIlroy said. "The equipment is fantastic. When I make a good swing it does exactly what I want."
He also addressed rumors that he and tennis playing girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki had broken up, which some had speculated was at the root of his problems.
"Just because I have a bad day on the golf course, and Caroline loses a match, does not mean we are breaking up," he said.
McIlroy will tee off at 11:53 a.m. ET on Thursday with Tiger Woods and Luke Donald.
"I actually think in the long run, Friday will be a blessing in disguise," McIlroy said. "It sort of released a valve and all that pressure that I've been putting on myself just went away.
"It's not life or death out there. It's only a game. I had sort of forgotten that this year. I've got to remember I started to play golf because I love it. I've got four rounds, thankfully. I haven't been enjoying it because I've been putting so much pressure on myself. I have to go out there and enjoy myself."