Rory McIlroy is experiencing some of the same back issues that forced him out of action for seven weeks earlier this year, and they could prevent him from competing in the European Tour’s BMW PGA Championship in two weeks.
McIlroy, who was diagnosed with a fractured rib in January and didn’t play again until March at the WGC-Mexico Championship, said the injury is not as painful this time; he is even-par through 36 holes at The Players Championship after birdieing his final hole for 71.
“I’ve been struggling with it a bit this week, sort of felt it for the first time on Sunday,” said McIlroy, who was married last month in Ireland and is playing his first tournament since the Masters. “I’ve just been managing it since. It’s OK, it’s manageable. It’s not obviously 100 percent, but it’s good enough to get myself around here for the next couple of days.
“I’m going for an MRI scan on Monday just to make sure it’s not serious, and then I’ll see what we do from there.”
McIlroy’s original injury was due in part to extensive testing on golf equipment in the winter leading up to his first tournament in South Africa, where he lost in a playoff despite nearly withdrawing. An MRI revealed the rib fracture, and McIlroy missed tournaments in Abu Dhabi and Dubai as well as planned starts at the Genesis Open and Honda Classic on the PGA Tour.
In his four tournaments since returning, McIlroy, ranked second in the world, has three top-10 finishes, including a tie for seventh at the Masters.
“It might be just a flare-up of what happened previously and I just need to rest for a few days and it might be OK,” he said. “Hopefully that’s what it shows in the scan next week. There’s so many unknowns.”
McIlroy said he took three weeks away from golf after the Masters and around the time of his wedding.
“I went back at it again on Friday [May 5] and instead of maybe gradually building up again, I hit balls for four or five hours and did the same on Saturday,” he said. “I felt a bit of stiffness on Sunday, hit a couple of drives and didn’t feel quite right.
“So maybe I should have just taken it a bit easier over the weekend, but I was excited to get back, excited to get ready to play again, and so maybe just being a little over-keen was a detriment.”
McIlroy is scheduled to play the European Tour’s flagship event in two weeks, followed by the Memorial Tournament prior to the U.S. Open.