Rib stress fracture rules Rory out of star-studded Abu Dhabi event
Rory McIlroy's hopes of a fast start to 2017 have been dashed by a rib injury which has forced him to withdraw from this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
World No.2 McIlroy picked up the injury during the BMW SA Open and revealed on Friday that he had considered pulling out of the tournament after round one.
McIlroy believes the amount of testing he has been doing on equipment over the last few weeks, particularly the number of drives he hit in practice, was a factor in suffering what has now been diagnosed of a stress fracture.
He managed to get through the next 54 holes of the SA Open by taking anti-inflammatory tables and with his ribs strapped up.
In a dramatic climax, McIlroy finished level with England's Graeme Storm after 72 holes, but lost on the third playoff hole.
He flew to Dubai on Sunday night and yesterday had an MRI scan and a clinical examination.
Having consulted with his medical team, the world number two decided he had no option but to withdraw from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship which starts on Thursday.
McIlroy said: "It's bitterly disappointing to have to withdraw from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
"I think everyone knows how much I love playing this tournament, which is one of the best on the European Tour thanks to the incredible support of HSBC and the Abu Dhabi Sports Council.
"To be forced to miss this week through injury is really quite annoying to be perfectly honest, but I am sure the tournament will be a huge success and I hope everyone involved has a great week.
"In situations like this you simply have to listen to the experts and the team I have consulted have all advised me to rest until my rib has fully recovered."
The break will give McIlroy plenty of time to reflect on his loss to journeyman pro Graeme Storm.
Only he can say how much the injury affected his game, McIlroy got himself into contention and then the lead in the closing stages, and knows he could have got the job done.
On the plus side, considering this was his first competitive outing after the holidays, McIlroy can take many positives into the next phase of his build up to the Masters.
He played well, he was competitive, and except for a few wayward swings that put his ball into rough, McIlroy's game looked quite solid.
Psychologically the final round was fascinating.
There was McIlroy playing with Storm who had not won since 2007 and who effectively lost his card at the end of 2016, only to get a reprieve when Patrick Reed fell short of the requisite number of European Tour events to affect the rankings.
Nobody would have blamed Storm if he stuttered to second place, especially after his second round comment.
"I tip Rory to win this week because he hits it miles and he hits it straight. If I keep on his tail, I'll be happy."
Given his demeanour and his record, Storm did not seem to be playing mind games when he said that, so it's to his credit that he held his nerve to edge McIlroy out and claim a prestigious tournament title.
Storm's playing future is secure with a two-year exemption to the end of 2018. The Englishman moved up 118 places in the World Rankings to 133 from last week's 251.
Meanwhile, the hottest player in the game right now is America's Justin Thomas.
Thomas, 23, played sensational golf to win the Sony Open in Hawaii on Sunday with a PGA Tour record score of 253, 27-under par, compiling rounds of 59, 64, 65, 65. Jordan Spieth came second, eight shots adrift on -19 as Seamus Power finished 19 shots off the pace on -8.
The champion led wire-to-wire to earn his second successive victory, following the SBS Tournament of Championship in Maui last Sunday week. Earlier in the wraparound season he triumphed in the CIMB Classic played in Kuala Lumpur last October.