Following the final round of The Players, Rory McIlroy returned to Northern Ireland Monday morning and had an MRI after experiencing mild pain and discomfort in his back in the same area from a previous injury earlier this year.
Good news: The scan showed no evidence of a new injury. The bad: The stress fracture to a rib that was diagnosed in January has not completely healed.
Ugh. I always hear how annoying rib injuries are, especially for athletes, and Rory is unfortunately dealing with that right now.
In a statement Monday evening, Rory said: “MRI scan confirmed no new injury, rather a low grade response to the rib joint I injured earlier this year.”
After posting a respectable one-under 71 to safely put him inside the cut line, McIlroy revealed he was experiencing pain in the same area that sidelined him for seven weeks at the start of the year. He made his first start on the PGA Tour at the WGC-Mexico Championship and then played four out of six weeks that ended with the Masters. Following that, he took three weeks off, which included getting married and taking a honeymoon. He said last Friday he likely aggravated the old injury because of the time off and then practicing three straight days to prepare for the Players.
To his credit, it sounds like he correctly diagnosed the issue. Here’s what he said last Friday:
“It’s in the same area as the injury at the start of the year,” McIlroy added. “If that injury was an eight or a nine in terms of pain and soreness and stiffness, this is around a four or five. It might just be a flare-up of what happened previously and I just need to rest for a few days and it might be OK. Hopefully that’s what it shows in the scan.
“Thankfully it feels more muscular than joint or bone at this point. I feel like I can distinguish what the difference is between the two. It’s just about making sure that this left rhomboid doesn’t go into spasm and doesn’t really tighten up around the joint. The warm weather helps, it helps it stay a little looser.
“I had the injury, then I played three our of four events leading up to Augusta and then I took a little bit of time off. So my body adapted and got used to playing and practicing again. I took another three weeks off and then I went back at it on Friday. Instead of maybe gradually building it up again, I hit balls for four or five hours on Friday and did the same on Saturday. I felt a bit of stiffness on Sunday, hit a couple of drives that didn’t feel quite right.
“So I maybe should have just taken it a bit easier over the weekend but I was excited to get back, excited to get ready to play again and so maybe just being a little over-keen was to my detriment.”
The European Tour’s flagship event at Wentworth in England takes place next week. Whether or not Rory will tee it up is still in question.
“As of now I am still entered into the BMW PGA Championship,” said McIlroy.
He added he would decided early next week if he was “in a position to compete.”
Fingers crossed. Obviously, the tournament would go on, but it would lose its main draw if the world no. 2 was forced to pull out — understandable given the situation, however.
It’s a tough call. Once June starts, everything blurs together and suddenly the summer is over. At least that’s from personal experience and I think the players would concur.
If Rory were to miss Wentworth, his next scheduled start will be at the Memorial Tournament the first week of June, followed by the U.S. Open, then the Travelers Championship. He will head back across the pond in July for the Irish Open, which benefits his foundation, at Portstewart (near Portrush in Northern Ireland). He’ll take the following week off (and miss the Scottish Open) before the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale. McIlroy ran out with a dominant victory to secure his first Claret Jug at nearby Royal Liverpool (Hoylake) in 2014.
With Wentworth, I’m feeling a bit torn, but I don’t know the details of Rory’s injury. However, when it comes to recurring injuries that can become more serious if not properly healed, I preach and urge people to proceed with caution and hyper-caution is preferable in these situations. I guess it’s one of those things that if you’ve been there and look back thinking you may have not taken proper care and/or enough time to rehabilitate and it turns into a much more serious and life-changing/career-ending injuries, it’s hard not to wonder, “What if?” — even though you know can’t live in the past and it’s pointless. So, again, I always heed caution, but who says I practice what I preach?
Then, on a completely selfish note, I’m covering Wentworth, so clearly, it would be better if the field was as strong as possible, which means Rory playing. I’m obviously joking and honestly, I hate saying that I think he should sit out just to be safe — with three majors still up for grabs this summer, better be safe than sorry.