Former world No. 1 David Duval has experienced what it’s like to play golf when your body isn’t at full strength, and he knows it’s almost always a fool’s errand.
That’s exactly what the major-champion-turned-broadcaster saw from Rory McIlroy at last week’s PGA Championship. McIlroy, a two-time winner at Quail Hollow Club, entered the event on the heels of back-to-back top-five finishes and was a pre-tournament favourite, but he failed to break 70 until the final day of competition, settling for a disappointing 22nd-place finish. The 13-time PGA Tour winner has been affected by a lingering rib injury, limiting him to 13 events in 2017.
Speaking on the Golf Channel after the event, Duval offered his thoughts on the state of McIlroy’s game.
“He needs to go home. He needs to stop playing right now. He’s hurt and I am watching his golf swing deteriorate,” Duval said. “If only I could go back and tell myself 18 to 20 years ago when I started having those problems, ‘Stop, get healthy.’ He 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.”
Take a look at McIlroy’s swing at Quail Hollow:
Duval knows a thing or two about how injuries can affect the golf swing. The Jacksonville native was regarded as Tiger Woods’ chief rival for a brief period in the late ’90s, spending 15 weeks as the game’s top-ranked player in 1999. He began to suffer from back pain the following year and won just two more events before experiencing one of the most spectacular declines of any golfer in history. In January 2003, he was still ranked 15th in the world; by December, he was well outside of the top 200.
To McIlroy’s credit, the four-time major champion recently announced his plans to step away from golf and assess his injury situation, though he wouldn’t commit to taking off any set period of time.
“Look, I don’t know what I’m going to do,” he said. “You might not see me until next year. You might see me in a couple of weeks’ time. It really depends.”
McIlroy said he’s been experiencing periodic spasms in his left rhomboid for the past few weeks. The PGA was the McIlroy’s seventh event in nine weeks, making this summer a remarkably active one for the 28-year-old Ulsterman.
“I can feel it,” he said. “I can play 18 holes. I warm up, it’s OK. But once I get done, having to go through the whole routine of getting it ready to go again the next day, you shouldn’t have to do that. If it was injury-free, that wouldn’t happen.”
Duval isn’t the only former top-ranked player who hit the skids thanks to a balky back. Woods has undergone several back surgeries over the past few years, limiting him to just 14 official events since the start of 2015. Furthermore, many analysts have posited that Woods accelerated his rehabilitation periods, leading to several aborted comeback attempts. He’s now ranked 1087th in the world.
At No. 4, McIlroy still has a long way to fall, but you can never be too careful with injuries to the core. While he’s taking this week off, his status for the FedEx Cup Playoffs remains unclear. The first postseason event, The Northern Trust, is set to begin on Thursday, August 24.
Rory Mcilroy bombing his drives ????????⛳???????? @RoryLegion_GC @Rory_Zone @RoryLegion_GC @McIlroyRory #PGAChampionship #PGAChamp pic.twitter.com/LTkpBgCXMv
— Golfication (@golfication) August 14, 2017
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