Rory McIlroy withdraws from Honda Classic, Tiger Woods lags behind

It’s often said that a golf tournament can’t be won on the first day, but it can certainly be lost if a competitor digs a big enough hole. And while Tiger Woods is by no means out of contention at the Honda Classic after shooting par yesterday, he certainly has some ground to make up today and into the weekend.

Perhaps the biggest news coming out of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, this morning was that Rory McIlroy had decided to withdraw after shooting the same score as Woods yesterday. After starting today’s round an abysmal 7-over par, McIlroy walked off the course before eventually releasing this statement:

“I sincerely apologize 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 last night, so I relieved it with 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. 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.”

Many golfers were able to distinguish themselves with under-par scores in yesterday’s opening round. Camilo Villegas set the bar with a 6-under-par round — which included four birdies and an eagle — and was a stroke ahead of Branden Grace, Ricky Fowler, Graham DeLaet and Robert Streb.

And even though TV coverage of the second round doesn’t begin today on Golf Channel until 3pm ET, some early scores this morning by Geoff Ogilvy, Michael Thompson, Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell and Keegan Bradley indicate that Woods is going to have to make up ground rather than expecting the leaders to come back to him. (You can track the live leaderboard here.)

In a press conference after yesterday’s round, Woods explained why he struggled with reading the greens.

“I hit the ball well today and hit some good putts, but unfortunately I didn’t get the feeling of this grain today,” he said. “It was either snagging or I would blow through it top side. I just didn’t quite have it just right. I hit so many putts right around the edge that just were not going in. Just stick with what I’m doing because it’s not very far off.”

One of the great things about the PGA National Champion Course is The Bear Trap, the challenging signature stretch of holes encompassing Nos. 15-17. Appropriately named after Jack Nicklaus, who designed the course, it is sure to snag its share of golfers today and through the weekend. While NBC is on the air live from 3-6 p.m. ET this weekend with traditional coverage, Golf Channel also will be on the air live to focus on The Bear Trap.

The Spotlight coverage on-air team includes Ted Robinson, who will be making his Golf Channel debut, handling play-by-play responsibilities, Curt Byrum as lead analyst, Tom Abbott as tower analyst and Scott McCarron and Phil Parkin reporting from the course. Todd Lewis will conduct post-round interviews.

Here is a breakdown on the coverage beginning today:

—Friday 3-6 p.m. ET (Golf Channel live traditional coverage)

—Saturday 1-3 p.m. ET (Golf Channel live lead-in coverage)

—Saturday 3-6 p.m. ET (NBC live traditional coverage)

—Saturday 3-5 p.m. ET (Golf Channel live Spotlight coverage)

—Sunday 1-3 p.m. ET (Golf Channel live lead-in coverage)

—Sunday 3-6 p.m. ET (NBC live traditional coverage) Sunday 3-5 p.m. ET (Golf Channel live Spotlight coverage)