Back spasms could sideline McIlroy until next year

CHARLOTTE: Rory McIlroy might not play again until next year because of back spasms he has been battling much of the season, the four-time major champion from Northern Ireland said Sunday.

World number four McIlroy completed a disappointing major season with a three-under par 68 in the final round of the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow, finishing well back on one-over 285 for 72 holes in the year's last major tournament.

After admitting an injury has nagged him for weeks and he was uncertain about his future, McIlroy made it clear he will spend the next week sorting out his plans for the remainder of the year.

"Look, I don't know what I'm going to do," he said. "You might not see me until next year. You might see me in a couple of weeks time. It really depends."

McIlroy, 28, shared fourth at the British Open and seventh at the Masters but missed the cut at the US Open this year. After another poor major, he could feel the pain in his upper back muscles.

"Right now I can feel my left rhomboid going into spasm. It's sort of the way it has been the last few weeks," McIlroy said. "I have upped my practice coming into these two events because I wanted to feel like I was in a good place in my game.

"But right now it's a tough one because I go out there and play and shoot decent scores, but when I come off the course, I feel my left rhomboid going into spasm. Inside of my left arm goes numb.

"So I don't know what to do. I have got this next week off to assess what I need to go forward."

McIlroy eyes 2018 Masters

McIlroy won last year's US$10 million (RM42.95 million) US PGA playoffs bonus prize and the season-ending Tour Championship, but he is uncertain about defending both, his priority being at full strength for next April's Masters, where he could complete a career Grand Slam.

"I feel like I'm capable and playing well enough to give myself a chance in it," McIlroy said. "At the same time, April is a long way away. That's the next big thing on my radar."

McIlroy hasn't won a major since the 2014 PGA and struggled again this week.

"It's tough. I want to get back into that winner's circle," McIlroy said. "You don't want to be teeing off at 9:45 on the final rounds of a major on a Sunday. That is not where you want to be.

"I have a good bit of time to get healthy and address a few things going forward. As I said, the next big thing is April and that's really what my focus will be on from now until then."

McIlroy said the pain is not nearly as severe as in May at the Players Championship when it flared.

"I can feel it. So it's there and I can play 18 holes. I warm it up, it's OK," McIlroy said. "But once I get done, having to go through the whole routine of getting it ready to go again the next day, you shouldn't have to do that. If I was injury-free, that wouldn't happen."

McIlroy put off seeing a doctor to focus on preparing for the PGA Championship, but was flying home Sunday night for Northern Ireland to seek medical advice.

"I just wanted to put my head where it needed to be which was trying to focus on the golf," he said. "But the more I play, it's just not allowing that time to heal 100%."

Eight weeks off, then rehab

McIlroy already knows he needs rest and rehabilitation to properly end the ache.

"An injury like this, it's eight full weeks of rest before you start to rehab it and then you go again," McIlroy said. "We took as much time as we needed to at the start of the year. That was basically seven or eight weeks. Got back and playing it felt OK through the Masters."

McIlroy took time off to get married and enjoy his honeymoon, then quickly resumed full training.

"I didn't build up the volume gradually. I went from zero to hitting balls from three or four hours a day. That aggravated it a little bit," McIlroy said.

"I just haven't it allowed it the time to fully heal. I wanted to play the season. If I want to challenge on a more consistent basis, I need to get 100% healthy."

McIlroy said the issue is why he hasn't looked at replacing caddie J.P. Fitzgerald after their split. Pal Harry Diamond was his bagman this week. — AFP