Rory McIlroy may not play competitive golf again this year, after using the conclusion to his US PGA Championship to reveal the extent to which a rib injury is still affecting him. McIlroy himself raised the possibility of skipping the remainder of 2017.
The Northern Irishman has been troubled since January, with pain transferring into his back. Having initially taken time off in a bid to cure the problem, McIlroy returned for the key part of the season but hasn’t enjoyed the results he would like, especially in majors. After signing for a final round of 68 at Quail Hollow, meaning a total of one over, the 28-year-old spoke openly about fitness woes.
“Right now I can feel my left rhomboid going into spasm,” McIlroy said. “It’s sort of the way it has been for the last few weeks. I have upped my practise coming into these events because I wanted to feel like I was in a good place in my game. But right now it’s a tough one because I go out there and play and shoot decent scores, but when I come off the course, I feel my left rhomboid going into spasm. The inside of my left arm goes numb. I have got this next week off to assess what I need to go forward. I don’t know what I’m going to do. You might not see my until next year. You might see me in a couple of weeks’ time. It really depends.”
McIlroy will take medical advice in his native Belfast this week. Key to his thought process is the Masters next year, with that event all McIlroy requires in order to complete a Grand Slam of majors.
“It’s tough,” said McIlroy. “I want to get back into that winner’s circle. You don’t want to be teeing off at 9.45 on the final rounds of a major on a Sunday. That is not where you want to be. The next big thing is April and that’s really what my focus will be on from now until then.
“I can play 18 holes. I warm it up, it’s OK. But once I get done, having to go through the whole routine of getting it ready to go again the next day, you shouldn’t have to do that. If I was injury-free, that wouldn’t happen. The more I play, it’s just not allowing that time to heal 100%.
“An injury like this, it’s eight full weeks of rest before you start to rehab it and then you go again. I felt like we took as much time as we needed to at the start of the year. That was basically seven or eight weeks. I got back and playing it felt OK through the Masters.
“I switched it off for a couple of weeks because I was getting married, going on honeymoon. Then once I started practicing again, I didn’t build up the volume gradually. I went from zero to hitting balls for three or four hours a day. That aggravated it a little bit.
“I just haven’t allowed it the time to fully heal. I wanted to play the season. I feel like I’m capable of playing well and winning and putting rounds together. But if I want to challenge on a more consistent basis, I need to get 100% healthy.”
When asked why, against this backdrop, he would play again in the foreseeable future, McIlroy admitted: “I don’t know. I feel like a sense of not duty. I’ve missed a lot of time already. If I’m capable of playing, I feel like ‘Why shouldn’t you?’ But then at the same time, if you are not capable of playing at your best, why should you play? So it’s Catch 22.”
Ordinarily, McIlroy would launch the defence of his FedEx Cup over four events beginning in New York from August 24. Thereafter comes the conclusion to the European Tour’s season, including a marquee event in Dubai in November.
“I feel like I’m capable and playing well enough to give myself a chance in it [the FedEx Cup],” he added. “At the same time, April is a long way away. That’s the next big thing on my radar. Everything is up in the air because I don’t know when I’m going to play next, where I’m going to play next.”