Rory McIlroy to undergo MRI after Storm edges play-off

Fairytale turnaround for Englishman after losing his European Tour Card at end of 2016

Rory McIlroy - deprived of a season-opening success by England's Graeme Storm in a three-hole play-off at the BMW South African Open - is to undergo an MRI scan on his injured back at a Dubai hospital on Monday.

“There’s so much to play for this season I don’t want to jeopardise long term goals for short term gain,” admitted the Northern Irishman after finishing runner-up to Storm. McIlroy is in the field for this week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship where a win would see him leapfrog Australian Jason Day back to the world number one spot.

McIlroy, who flew to Dubai from South Africa for a stop-over to undergo the scan to determine the extent of the injury to joints in his spine, had started out three shots behind 54-hole leader Storm but forced a play-off after shooting a closing round 68 to the Englishman’s 71 for the pair to finish level on 18-under-par 280, a shot clear of third-placed Jordan Smith.

In the sudden death play-off, which involved the players playing and replaying the 18th hole, a bogey at the third time of asking from McIlroy enabled Storm to secure a dreamlike victory. On that final play-off hole, McIlroy missed the green with his approach, pitched to eight feet and missed the par putt but graciously embraced his conqueror and congratulated Storm on only his second win on tour.


Storm initially lost his tour card by one place last season - by €100 - only to be given a reprieve after American Patrick Reed failed to play a sufficient number of events on the European Tour.

Even McIlroy acknowledged the popularity of Storm’s win, his first since the French Open in 2007. “It’s disappointing, it’s hard (to take). Probably that bogey on 17 (in regulation play) after the tough lie (proved costly). Having said that, Graeme’s played well all week and it’s a great story, going from a lost card last year to winning first week back out this year. So, really pleased for him.

“I wish I could have done something more but it’s not a bad way to start the season and definitely something to build on in the weeks ahead.”

McIlroy, who played with strapping and thanks to painkillers, added: “First and foremost the main, important thing is to get fit and healthy again. Hopefully I will be fine to play (in Abu Dhabi).”

For Storm, the victory will give him playing privileges on the European Tour to the end of 2019 which, after the disappointment of initially losing his card last season before getting that reprieve is a huge turnaround in where and when he can play.

“I’m shocked. This has been a surreal week and to find myself in the position I was in with probably the best player in the world was a dream come true . . . . I got my playing rights due to the fact Patrick (Reed) could not play and I took it with both hands. To win this tournament with the prestige of it is incredible.”

Having started the year ranked 251st in the world rankings, Storm’s win moved him inside the top 140 and, some 274 events since his last win in the 2007 French Open, gave him a fairytale success that was greeted by fellow tour players.

“This is a dream come true, especially after what happened to me last year with my card and everything. I really took a lot from that experience and told myself to try and grasp the opportunity of getting my livelihood back with both hands and I have done that this week.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling. I hung in there today and didn’t play my best stuff but I knew if I could hang in there that I might get my chance and thankfully it came.It really means everything to me to be in the winner’s circle again.

“I have been to hell and back to be honest with you. It’s been an absolute rollercoaster over the last year and a half - especially the end of last year,” said Storm.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times