McIlroy finished the week at 1 over, never truly challenging on a course where he had won twice before and also lost in a playoff. The Ulsterman started the day 11 shots off the lead and played his best round of the week, carding four birdies against a single bogey.
But the theme of his post-round comments centered around his health, which is again in limbo. McIlroy hinted after the third round that the rib injury that had caused him to miss two stretches of starts earlier this year had again returned, and while speaking to reporters Sunday he explained that the injury was causing numbness down the inside of his left arm.
“It’s sort of the way it has been the last few weeks,” McIlroy said. “Right now it’s a tough one because I go out there and play and shoot decent scores, but when I come off the course I can feel my left rhomboid going into spasm.”
McIlroy had planned to take next week off before starting defense of his season-long title at The Northern Trust, but those plans are now officially in limbo as a frustrated McIlroy is even considering shelving it for the balance of 2017.
“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 weeks’ time. It really depends.”
McIlroy plans to fly back home to Northern Ireland in the next few days and visit with trainer Steve McGregor to evaluate his options. Throughout the year he has described the initial injury as requiring an eight-week recovery, but even after missing significant time leading into the Masters he has struggled to stay healthy during a relatively disappointing season.
“I just haven’t allowed it the time to fully heal,” McIlroy said. “I wanted to play this season. I feel like I’m capable of playing well and winning and putting rounds together. If I want to challenge on a more consistent basis, I need to get 100 percent healthy.”
The final round at Quail Hollow marked the conclusion of friend Harry Diamond’s two-week stint as caddie, and McIlroy had earlier hinted at working towards a more permanent solution on the bag during the week off before the first playoff event. But at this point, his health concerns have superseded any caddie plans and he said “everything is up in the air” as to who will be on the bag for his next start.
The key issue for McIlroy is determining when exactly that next start will be. While he shied away from describing a “sense of duty” when it comes to defending his season-long title after missing several events this year, he made it clear that his focus from this point forward will be on capturing an elusive green jacket next spring.
“April is a long way away,” McIlroy said. “That’s the next big thing on my radar.”