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Injured Rory McIlroy set for spell on sidelines

By Liam Kelly

Rory McIlroy's hopes of a fast start to 2017 have been dashed by injury which has forced him to withdraw from this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

McIlroy suffered an injury in his upper back during the BMW SA Open and revealed on Friday that he had considered pulling out of the tournament.

The Ulsterman 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 as a stress fracture in the rib area.

He managed to get through the next 54 holes of the SA Open by taking anti-inflammatory tablets and having the back strapped up. McIlroy finished runner-up after losing a dramatic play-off to Graeme Storm.

He flew to Dubai on Sunday night and yesterday had an MRI scan and a clinical examination.

"In situations like this you simply have to listen to the experts," he said.

Having consulted with his medical team, the World No.2 decided he had no option but to withdraw from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

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 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."

The break will give McIlroy plenty of time to reflect on his loss to journeyman pro 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, the Ulsterman 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, his 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."

Storm's playing future is now secure with a two-year exemption to the end of 2018.

Belfast Telegraph

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