After finishing in a tie for 22nd at the USPGA on Sunday, McIlroy told the media “you may not see me until next year”, because of an ongoing back complaint related to the rib injury he suffered at the start of the season. And Duval would clearly support him sitting out until 2018.
McIlroy, 28, may be wise to listen to the American’s concerns, as Duval elected to continue playing competitively in 2000 despite spraining a lumber vertebrae in the spine. The then 29-year-old believed his choice was vindicated when he won the following year’s Open Championship but, after that, his condition declined yet further and he never won again.
Duval does not want the Ulsterman to make the same mistake.
“Rory needs to go home and he needs to stop playing right now. He’s hurt and I am watching his golf swing deteriorate,” Duval, now a Golf Channel analyst, said. “If only I could go back and tell myself 18-20 years ago when I started having those problems, ‘Stop, get healthy.’
“Rory could do himself a big service. He’s always had a little bit of a hitch with the driver in terms of flattening out a little but it is getting a lot more pronounced right now and I think that is due to that rib injury.”
McIlroy has already satisfied one of Duval’s wishes by flying home to Belfast on Sunday evening. He is due to meet with Steve McGregor in the city in the forthcoming days and the pair will come up with a plan of action, or perhaps, inaction.
McIlroy revealed that although he can manage to get through a round, he invariably has a numb left arm as a result. He then requires extensive physiotherapy to prepare him for the next day.
It is a wearing schedule and the fact that he cannot practise as much as he normal is obviously not leading to his best golf.
An announcement is expected this week as he is due to play in next week’s Northern Trust Open in New York, the first of the four FedEx Cup play-offs.
McIlroy won the FedEx, together with its $10 million bonus last year, but he stressed that the Masters next April “is the next big thing on my radar”.
Following Spieth’s unsuccessful attempt to complete the career grand slam at Quail Hollow, McIlroy will have the chance at Augusta to beat his young rival to it. McIlroy forecasts that it will take eight weeks for the injury fully to heal and then he would require rehab. Conceivably, he could return in November to play in the European Tour’s final two events of the Race to Dubai, although he holds no realistic hope of a fourth order of merit title in six years.
So, despite being winless so far in 2017 and, having endured his third majorless campaign in success, McIlroy could well lock it down. He does not have a permanent caddie and this would afford him the opportunity to take his time in the search. For this recently married young man, the reset button must be very tempting indeed.