Rory ready to take 2017 off after new flop
R ory McIlroy is considering taking the rest of the year off to get fully fit following a disappointing season in the majors where a nagging rib injury meant he struggled to live up to his billing once more.
The solution is the most radical of several that are up for discussion in Belfast this week as the Northern Irishman talks it through with his trainer Steve McGregor and the rest of his team.
‘There’s a lot to be said for what roger Federer did in tennis,’ said one of his inner circle, referring to the five months the Swiss legend took off to get fit before coming back to win the Australian open in January.
McIlroy had barely signed for a final-round 68 in the 99th US PGA Championship at Quail Hollow yesterday when he could feel some familiar discomfort.
‘As I’m talking to you I can feel my left rhomboid (upper back muscle) going into spasm, and the inside of my left arm going numb,’ said the 28year- old. ‘I have upped my practice coming into the last two events because I wanted to feel in a good place about my game.
‘Similarly, I haven’t talked to anyone about it the last couple of weeks because I wanted my head where it needed to be to focus on this event.
‘So right now, to be perfectly honest, I don’t know what to do. you might not see me now until next year. you might see me in a fortnight at the FedEx Cup. What I do know is that if I want to challenge on a consistent basis, I need to get 100 per cent healthy.’
McIlroy suffered the original injury at an intensive boot camp in January as he prepared for the new campaign. He played on at his first event, the South African open, with his ribs strapped up.
He took the recommended eight weeks off but the injury flared up once more following his wedding in April, after another hard practice session.
‘I just feel in a catch-22 situation right now,’ he said. ‘I feel I am capable of playing and feel a sense of duty to play because I’ve missed a lot of time already. But then, at the same time, if you are not capable of playing at your best, why should you play?
‘I just haven’t allowed it the time to fully heal. I wanted to play the season. But it’s tough to struggle for another year in the majors. I want to get back into that winner’s circle. Teeing off on Sunday in the final round at 9.45am is not where you want to be. So, from now until next April and the Masters, my focus is to get healthy and address a few things.’
Speaking of a sense of duty, McIlroy is scheduled to compete in all four play- off events in his defence of the FedEx Cup, which begins in 10 days. Thereafter he was hoping to play in the Dunhill links pro-am at St Andrews with his father, Gerry.
‘The trouble is, the more I play, it’s just not allowing that time it needs to heal 100 per cent,’ added McIlroy. As for the things to address, one will be a new caddie to replace JP Fitzgerald, who was sacked two weeks ago. McIlroy’s best friend Harry Diamond has stood in for the last fortnight but that is surely a temporary thing.
‘I think he’s enjoyed it, he’s made 50 grand,’ said rory, giving an indication of how lucrative an appointment it will be.
There are also clearly issues with his wedge play and other parts of his game, but much of that will be corrected once he gets healthy. There is a mental aspect that needs addressing, though, for it is not just this year where McIlroy hasn’t contended.
Come Sunday afternoon, he hasn’t been a factor in any of the 11 majors he has played since his last victory three years ago.
During that time he has played the opening rounds in a combined total of 14 over par.
on the final day, loose and with only pride to play for, he has been an aggregate of 27 under. How does he play with that freedom again in the first round, as he used to when winning majors?
First things first, though. McIlroy might feel he owes it to the respective tours to keep playing but, much more than that, he owes it to himself to let this injury fully heal.
As for Jordan Spieth, he signed for a 70 to finish just inside the top 30. Hardly where he wanted to be, but when he gets home to Dallas today you can be sure the sight of the Claret Jug will quickly erase any disappointment.
Pain game: McIlroy finishes a dispiriting US PGA