Rory McIlroy battles through pain to remain in hunt
World No 2 three shots off the lead despite almost pulling out of South Africa Open after tweaking his back
Rory McIlroy plays out of the sand on the 18th hole during day two of The BMW South African Open Championship at Glendower Golf Club in Johannesburg. Photograph: Warren Little/Getty Images
Rory McIlroy’s prominence at the South Africa Open may be little surprise to golf observers but the man himself admitted shock after a back problem left him on the brink of withdrawing from the tournament before round two.
McIlroy shot a second round of 68 for a total of nine under par and a leaderboard position which is three adrift of the halfway leader, Graeme Storm. McIlroy was two over par after seven holes on Friday, a matter placed into appropriate context by the four-times Major winner thereafter.
“I’m actually surprised I’m standing here, I actually thought about pulling out before even teeing off today,” McIlroy said.
“I tweaked my back somehow and the first few shots today weren’t very comfortable and it still isn’t really comfortable. I can’t really take a deep breath because I’ve done something to my upper back. I’m going to go get some treatment now. Considering that, I played well, stuck at it and hopefully I can feel better tomorrow.
“I don’t want to withdraw, it would let a lot of people down so that’s why I kept going.”
If this hardly represents the ideal start to 2017 for McIlroy, who is using new equipment in South Africa, his eight under par run from the eighth to 16th tee at least gave some cause for comfort.
“The middle of the round was good,” McIlroy said. “Once I got it going and saw putts going in I got some momentum which was nice.
“I was disappointed to finish the way I did, I thought I hit a good shot on 17, it just pitched a bit too far. Then at 18 I was probably just rushing a bit to get in before the [bad] weather. Overall, the start and the finish wasn’t great but everything in between was pretty good and I’m still in contention heading into the weekend.”
The suspension of play only added to Darren Clarke’s miserable day as he was forced to mark his ball on the 18th green after already undoing all the good work of his opening two-under 70 by slipping back to four over after a round that included seven bogeys and a solitary bogey.