Rory McIlroy, who grimaced after shots, dropped clubs on follow-throughs and struggled early during the first round of the Tour Championship, couldn’t have been upset. He knew the genesis of the pain on his right side.
In the end on Thursday at East Lake Golf Club, McIlroy rebounded, shooting an even-par 70, and he’s three back of the lead with 54 holes to go. Still, the PGA Tour’s season-ending event was painful for the four-time major winner.
And it all started, McIlroy told Sky Sports on-course reporter Wayne Riley, when he threw his young daughter, Poppy, in a pool on Monday.
“He was throwing her around like we do with our children,” Riley said in a Sky Sports story, “and just pulled a little thing on his left side.”
From there, the pain worsened. On Thursday, he winced over shots on the range. On his opening tee shot on the par-4 1st, he hit into the right rough. On tee shots on the par-3 2nd and the par-4 4th, he released his club on his follow-through. On his second shot on 4 and on his tee shot on the par-3 11th, he dropped his club after his backswing. At various points, he received treatment. Still, after bogeys on 2 and the par-4 8, he played two-under golf on the back nine, with four birdies.
Afterward, McIlroy termed the injury a muscle spasm. He said it hurt most Wednesday, after a session at the gym.
“So I think when I play a lot of golf, especially the end of the season, I always have to manage my right side,” McIlroy said. “My right side always gets pretty tight, my rib cage, intercostals, lats, like, all the way down, right hip.
“On Tuesday morning, I felt a little tight, and I went into my gym at home, and I just sort of foam-rolled and stretched. I went to grab something and my whole right side just completely seized up, spasm. So I spent two hours with the physio at home, flew up here, felt a little better, some treatment, then Wednesday morning still my right side was feeling better and then went into the gym just to do some movements and stuff.
“I was at the bottom of a squat, a body-weight squat, and my whole lower back spasmed, seized up. I couldn’t move. I honestly couldn’t address the ball this time yesterday. So to get to where I am today is good.
“So, yeah, I mean, I hung in there and I just felt like if I could get through today, it’s better than it was yesterday, hopefully tomorrow’s better than it was today, and just sort of try to keep progressing. So the fact that I’m only going to be — whatever it’s going to be, like, three or four off the lead, I’m over the moon about.”
Did he ever think about withdrawing?
“So I got here really early this morning, like 7:45, so like six hours before my tee time,” McIlroy said, “did cold tub, did everything. I hit 20 wedges by 10 a.m. which is the first balls I’ve hit since Chicago [last week]. I felt OK, so then just thought I would give it a go.
“So I was always going to tee off. It was just a matter of how I felt on the course. And it got progressively a little tighter as I went, but it will hopefully get loosened up here and just another 20 — or 18 hours of recovery and go again tomorrow.”
Editor’s note: To read the complete Sky Sports story, please click here.