Uncertainty over Rory McIlroy’s fitness ahead of MRI scan

‘Unless you get an image taken and you know exactly what’s going on you don’t know’

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays a shot on the first hole during the final round of The Players championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Photo: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

An MRI scan on his injured back when he returns to Belfast will determine whether or not Rory McIlroy will be able to compete at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth on Thursday week.

That’s after the 28-year-old Northern Irishman was required to use strapping to his torso and also to take painkillers to complete all four rounds of The Players championship at TPC Sawgrass.

McIlroy, the world number two, finished with a final round 75 for two-over par 290 which dropped him down to tied-36th.

Having required post-round treatment from his fitness expert and sports scientist Dr Steve McGregor after each round to ease the pain, McIlroy will undergo the scans to discover if there is an underlying issue.


“There’s so many unknowns because we don’t even know, unless you get an image taken of it and you know exactly what’s going on you don’t know,” said McIlroy of the injury concerns.


The player missed almost two months of tournament play earlier this season after suffering a stress fracture to his ribs and is looking to rule out any recurrence. However, the fact McIlroy was able to complete all four rounds must be viewed as a positive. McIlroy judged the pain levels of that stress fracture at “eight or nine” but this latest pain he estimated at “four or five.”

McIlroy believes he sustained this latest back injury after failing to go through his regular warm-up routine when returning to practice last Friday week, following his honeymoon. The player spent almost five hours hitting balls on the range that day. “I practiced all day again on Saturday, and then I started to feel stiffness on Sunday. And then I hit a couple of drives on Monday morning and that’s when I felt it.”

And, although he completed all four rounds at Sawgrass, he required painkillers, strapping and post-round therapy to do so.

The MRI scan in Belfast will likely determine if he requires any treatment or if a period of rest will suffice. The BMW PGA – the European Tour’s flagship event and the start of the new megabucks Rolex Series – takes place next week, so there is a major question mark over McIlroy’s fitness to compete.

Any hope of making a final round charge in The Players evaporated on McIlroy’s front nine where he suffered bogeys on the fifth and seventh, on each occasion following tee-shots which finished up in fairway bunkers. Those dropped shots negated the birdies he’d recorded at the second and sixth holes.

On the Par 5 11th, McIlroy’s wayward drive into trees down the right left him in an unplayable lie and he was forced to take a penalty drop in running up a bogey six. Then, having saved par on the 14th with a chip-in, McIlroy dropped another shot on the 15th after missing the green with his approach.

Fortuitous bounce

After made an unlikely par on the 17th thanks a fortuitous bounce off the wooden sleepers on to the putting surface before sinking a 15 footer for his par, McIlroy closed out with a double bogey six on the 18th after missing the green with his approach and then playing a poor pitch from the hillocks.

McIlroy has found the Stadium Course to be a frustrating challenge in his career. “It handcuffs players a little bit, it dictates to you where you have to – you can’t really dictate how you play it, it sort of makes the decision for you, I guess. But I’ve learned that over the last (number of years). I tried to overpower this golf course the first few times I played it and that didn’t work so well,” he admitted.

Graeme McDowell had a disappointing final round which featured six bogeys and a double bogey in an 80 that left him on 297, nine-over-par.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times