Rib injury to delay Rory McIlroy’s world number one quest

Darren Clarke and Paul Dunne only Irish in field that includes Johnson and Stenson

Rory McIlroy: “To be forced to miss this week through injury is really quite annoying.” Photograph: David Cannon/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy’s caution has proved to be wise after all. The 27-year-old Northern Irishman stopped over in Dubai to undergo an MRI scan on what was believed to be a back injury. However, it was revealed that he had actually sustained stress fractures to his ribs which has forced his withdrawal from this week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

The world number two underwent extensive clinical examinations on Monday to investigate the injury which had hampered him during the South African Open. He finished runner-up to Graeme Storm in that competition, despite playing over the weekend with strapping on his torso and the aid of anti-inflammatories.

After receiving medical advice from doctors in Dubai after the results of the scans came through, McIlroy released a statement explaining his decision to withdraw from Abu Dhabi where a strong field featuring US Open champion Dustin Johnson, Open champion Henrik Stenson and US Masters champion Danny Willett are competing.

‘Incredible support’

“It’s bitterly disappointing to have to withdraw from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. I think everyone knows how much I love playing this tournament, which is one of the best on the European Tour thanks to the incredible support of HSBC and the Abu Dhabi Sports Council,” McIlroy said.


“To be forced to miss this week through injury is really quite annoying, to be perfectly honest, but I am sure the tournament will be a huge success and I hope everyone involved has a great week.

“In situations like this you simply have to listen to the experts and the team I have consulted have all advised me to rest until my rib has fully recovered.”

No timeframe was put on how long McIlroy will be out of the game, although his next scheduled tournament is the Dubai Desert Classic in three weeks’ time.

Irish players

The extent of the injury makes it all the more remarkable that McIlroy managed to compete in South Africa, where he suffered the injury – believing it to be back-related – during Friday’s second round only to fight his way into a play-off where he lost out to Storm.

A win in Abu Dhabi – where he has had seven top 10 finishes in nine previous appearances – would have moved McIlroy above Jason Day to world number one, but that particular quest must now wait for another day.

In the summer of 2015, McIlroy suffered ankle ligament damage which forced him to miss out on his defence of the Open that year at St Andrews.

With McIlroy’s enforced absence from Abu Dhabi, just two Irish players – Darren Clarke and Paul Dunne – remain in the field for a tournament which is the first of three in the so-called Desert Swing series that also takes in next week’s Qatar Masters and the following week’s Dubai Desert Classic where Tiger Woods is among those lined up to play.

Clarke is intent on reigniting his playing career after devoting much of the past two years to his role as Europe’s Ryder Cup captain, which finished with defeat to the USA at Hazeltine last year.

Dunne, who has made a solid start to the season with two top 30 finishes prior to Christmas in South Africa and Hong Kong, part of the wraparound season, is 45th on the order of merit and set to compete in all three events in the desert.

The Greystones golfer spent last week preparing along with former Walker Cup colleagues Gary Hurley and Gavin Moynihan in UAE ahead of his debut in Abu Dhabi.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times