Shock as NI golf superstar Rory reveals heart problem
Rory McIlroy has revealed he has "a bit of an irregularity with his heart" and will undergo regular scans to stay fit.
The four-time major winner from Holywood, Co Down returns to the golf course next week in the Abu Dhabi Championship after a four-month break as he recovered from a rib injury.
McIlroy revealed he has a "bit of an irregularity with my heart", which is possibly the result of a viral infection 18 months ago.
"The rib's fine, no problems whatsoever - I had an MRI scan on my thoracic spine and all was OK," McIlroy told the Daily Telegraph.
"But I've got a bit of an irregularity with my heart that I have to keep on top of.
"I have a flat T-wave and I'll have to get an echo (cardiogram) on my heart every six months and an MRI scan every year.
After a winless 2017, McIlroy has slipped to 11th in the world rankings and insists his focus is on winning in the months ahead and is confident he will bounce back as the world's best golfer.
"I don't judge it like that," McIlroy said.
"I don't care about the world rankings.
"I think about number of wins, the ability of the players against me, the number of majors the others have.
"I don't feel I need to compare myself to anyone else, because I know what I can do. I'm not hung up on it."
He added: "It's nice to be world No 1, sure, and I will get back there, but it's all about winning tournaments. And I will give myself the best chances this season."
This time last year the 28-year-old was number two in the rankings but after a disappointing season he dropped to his lowest ranking for a decade.
And he hasn't occupied the top spot since 2015.
Also, for the first time since 2008, he has endured a season bereft of any silverware.
And he parted company with JP Fitzgerald, his caddy for the past nine years.
It is, after all, a statistics-dominated sport.
Despite his injury and form problems, McIlroy was ranked a creditable third in 'strokes gained off the tee'.
But when it came to 'strokes gained putting' he found himself a lowly 140th on the list.
By the end of August he'd used no fewer than nine different putters in tournament play - and even changed his ball after another unsatisfactory Masters.
The constant tinkering was perhaps an inevitable legacy of Nike's abrupt dissolution of its golf equipment interests last year.
But off the course, McIlroy had the best year of his life, marrying his American fiancee Erica Stoll in a lavish ceremony in the Republic of Ireland in April.
The pair are currently settling into a new home in Florida, having put Rory's old one on the market with a $13m asking price.