Friday 20 September 2019

'I can't remember when I was this light' - Rory McIlroy loses 10lb in 48 hours due to illness

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland tees off during the WGC-HSBC Champions golf tournament in Shanghai today
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland tees off during the WGC-HSBC Champions golf tournament in Shanghai today

Oliver Brown

Rory McIlroy disclosed that he had lost 10lbs in body weight as a consequence of the severe food poisoning that left him feeling stiff and listless throughout a first-round 68 in the HSBC Champions at Sheshan.

“For the first time in a long time I’m down to 68kg (150lb),” he said, looking sick and pallid as he set out to win the final World Golf Championship of the year. “I can’t remember the last time I was this time last light. I need to rehydrate and get that back up again.”

It was testament to the tenacity of McIlroy, supported throughout his illness in Shanghai by girlfriend Erica Stoll, that he still negotiated this punishingly long course in four under par after spending 48 hours confined to his hotel bed. While his physique had suffered from the ordeal, which he blamed on a rogue club sandwich ordered from room service, his shot-making was as dialled-in as ever as the world No 3 stayed within five strokes of South African Branden Grace’s early lead.

“It was a little better than I was expecting, to be honest,” McIlroy said. “When I was hitting balls on the range, I felt really stiff, as if I needed to loosen up far more than usual. I had a real lack of energy, and I’m going to make sure I put on a couple more pounds by the end of the week.”

McIlroy faced an arduous task in fighting his way back into the tournament, after an opening that yielded an extraordinary 344 birdies and nine eagles on a course saturated by heavy rain. One of the prime contenders to streak past him was England’s Danny Willett, who sustained his stellar season with a 65 that confirmed his capacity to hold his own among the world’s elite.

As if anybody had doubted the Sheffield-born star after his third place at this year’s World Matchplay in San Francisco, Willett underscored his credentials with a wonderfully controlled round to inject fresh life into this year’s order of merit race on the European Tour, where he could yet overtake McIlroy at the closing event in Dubai later this month. Not that a four-time major champion, three times a leading money-winner on tour, needed any reminders of the threat.

“Danny has been playing well for a while now,” said McIlroy, chasing a winner’s cheque of £900,000 in Shanghai. “I was able to see that for myself in Turkey last week. Even though I had a slight lead in the Race to Dubai, I knew there so many guys who were close enough, especially given how large the prize funds are in these events.”

McIlroy is still absorbing the disappointment of only his second season since 2010 without a major title, arguing that his year had to be perceived through the prism of the ankle injury that kept him out of the Open. “I’m not as frustrated as I was in 2013, because I know my game is at the level it needs to be to win majors,” he said. “Next year I will be as motivated as ever to put another couple in the bag.”

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