McIlroy (rib) eyes return at WGC-Mexico

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A stress fracture that has kept Rory McIlroy out of the European Tour's Desert Swing will likely keep the world No. 2 sidelined for several more weeks.

McIlroy finished runner-up at the South African Open in his first start of 2017, but he nearly withdrew while battling what he thought was a back injury. The ailment turned out to be a stress fracture in one of his ribs, and it led McIlroy to withdraw from both the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and next week's Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

On The Clubhouse podcast, McIlroy shared that his physical activity has been limited since the injury.

"I can't even run at the minute because if my feet hit the ground hard at all, the vibration in my rib cage sort of hurts," McIlroy said. "Walking quite a bit, walking about 5-6 miles per day. I actually putted (Monday) for the first time, so that's the first sort of little bit of golf I've done since we sort of found out about the injury."

McIlroy believes that the cause of the injury actually extends back to before Christmas, when he spent a busy offseason both testing new equipment and working on a minor change to his swing.

"I think the combination of trying to make that small tweak in my swing and obviously hitting a lot of balls, and hitting a lot of drivers as well, making a lot of hard swings testing drivers ... The muscles said basically, 'Right, we're tired, we don't want to work anymore,'" he said. "And then that puts stress on the joints, and the joint was like, 'I don't like this either,' and then the rib took the brunt of it."

While he only announced his withdrawal from Dubai on Monday, McIlroy explained he is now eyeing a return at the WGC-Mexico Championship, held March 2-5. Should he return in Mexico City, it would mean missing the Genesis Open and Honda Classic, both of which he played last year.

"I'd like to sort of ease my way in gently, so Mexico is the perfect time to return," he said. "It's four rounds, there's no cut, I can see how everything feels. I have a week off after that, so Mexico, all signs point toward Mexico being the one where I could come back to and be 100 percent comfortable at. Hopefully it works out that way."