Rory McIlroy has apologized after putting his need for more competitive golf action ahead of a planned humanitarian visit to Haiti next week -- and said his caddy had played a big part in the decision.
The world No. 2 was due to visit Haiti on Monday and Tuesday in his role as a UNICEF ambassador following the end of this weekend's PGA Tour event in Houston. He first went to the Caribbean country in 2011 to meet people affected by the devastating earthquake the previous year.
However, following his second round at the Houston Open the two-time major winner decided that he would add the Texas Open to his schedule in order to have more time on the course ahead of the Masters at Augusta starting April 11.
"Unfortunately, I have had to postpone my planned trip to Haiti, with UNICEF, due to a change in my playing commitments," the 23-year-old said in a statement issued on his behalf by UNICEF Ireland.
"I am a strong supporter of UNICEF's work and I was privileged to be given the opportunity to visit Haiti, with UNICEF, nearly two years ago. We are currently looking at dates to reschedule my trip and I look forward to visiting Haiti very soon."
McIlroy has struggled to repeat his dominance of last season, when he topped both the U.S. and European Tour money lists and won his second major at the PGA Championship in August.
After the long-awaited news of his reported $250 million switch to Nike equipment was finally confirmed, he missed the cut in Abu Dhabi in January and was knocked out in the first round of the WGC Matchplay in Arizona in February.
Later that month, he controversially walked off the course at the Honda Classic in Florida, saying both that his wisdom tooth was causing pain and that he was frustrated by a flaw in his swing.
His decision to miss last week's Arnold Palmer Invitational raised eyebrows given his lack of tournament golf, and Tiger Woods' victory allowed the 14-time major winner to regain the world No. 1 spot from his young rival.
McIlroy made the cut at Redstone, but three bogeys in his last six holes saw him fade to a tie for 48th after Saturday's third round -- which left him nine shots behind leaders Bill Haas and Stewart Cink.
After his one-under-par 71, McIlroy explained that his caddy J.P. Fitzgerald had convinced him that he needed extra tournament play in San Antonio next week.
"(It was) something I hadn't thought about until basically after I finished yesterday," McIlroy said on the PGA Tour website Saturday.
"J.P. was the one that mentioned it to me. He said, 'If you just play a few more rounds, I think you're going to be ready.' I didn't really think about it too much and sat down, had some lunch, started to think about it and I texted him and said, 'I don't think this is a bad idea.'
"Probably took me an hour or two to sort of think about it and decide about.''
McIlroy has not had much tournament play this year, and he acknowledged that he is feeling "rusty."
"I just feel like I'm playing well, I'm hitting the ball well. Everything feels good," he said.
"It's just about playing a bit more competitive course and getting a little sharper. I feel a little rusty out there at times. I think the more rounds I play, the better it will be for me going into Augusta."
Cink is looking for his first victory since the 2009 British Open, but he and Haas were just one shot ahead of a group of four players -- and another nine were a stroke further back, including former major winners Louis Oosthuizen, Angel Cabrera and Keegan Bradley plus ex-world No. 1 Lee Westwood.
Three-time Masters winner Phil Mickelson was five shots adrift, having moved up the leaderboard with a 67 as he seeks his second Houston victory.