Rory McIIroy has revealed he intends to skip the European Tour’s Race To Dubai season finale for the first time in his career.
McIlroy is playing the PGA Tour’s equivalent, the FedEx Cup play-offs, which start on Thursday in New York, but after appearing at the Dunhill Links at St Andrews in the first week of October, he plans to take a three-and-a-half month break.
McIlroy believes he needs the rest to recover fully from a rib complaint which has plagued a year in which he remains winless.
"I'm OK to play these next four out of five weeks," the world No 4 said. “But then I do need a prolonged period off at some point in 2017 to be ready for 2018."
At the conclusion of the USPGA two weeks ago, McIlroy intimated he could be out for the rest of the year as he sought to eradicate his injury problems. Yet after consultation with fitness advisor Steve McGregor, in Belfast last week he decided to defend his FedEx title.
However, something has to give and it is a blow to his home circuit that he is choosing to sidestep the Europe run-in, which concludes in Dubai on 19 November.
McIlroy has lifted the Vardon Trophy three times in the last five years and, despite being some distance behind leader Tommy Fleetwood, it would still have been the main draw.
"I feel like I'm going to have a good bit of time at the end of the year to work on my fitness, to work on my game," McIlroy told ESPN. "Guys who play both tours, you don't get this opportunity to take a couple of months off and really work on what you need to work on, on your game -- a real and proper off-season. Like every other sport has, basically. I'm excited for that."
McIlroy, 28, has previously expressed his desire for the professional game to have “a proper off-season” and Keith Pelley, the European Tour chief executive, will read those comments with a degree of concern.
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With the USPGA moving to May in 2019 and with the US season then predicted to finish in August, there is pressure on Pelley to ensure his Tour’s campaign is wrapped up by early October.
For now, McIlroy will be concentrating on “rescuing” his campaign by scooping the FedEx bounty – just as he did in 2016. Down in 41st in the rankings, McIlroy presumably requires a win in the next three events, beginning with the Northern Trust Open, to give himself a shot at collecting the $10m FedEx bonus for whoever is topping the standing after next month’s Tour Championship.
Nine members of the world’s top 10 are in the Old Westbury field, including Jordan Spieth and USPGA champion Justin Thomas.