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McIlroy: 'Outside expectation' led to playoff schedule

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LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Rory McIlroy knows that after 36 holes at the BMW Championship, whatever slim chances he had of advancing to East Lake to defend his FedExCup title have essentially vanished. But that doesn’t mean the Ulsterman is ready to throw in the towel.

McIlroy was in the first threesome of the day Friday at Conway Farms Golf Club, where he shot a 2-under 69 to move to 2 under for the week. It’s a red number and his second round included five birdies, but it’s still 11 shots behind the blistering pace set by Jason Day and Rickie Fowler.

McIlroy entered the week ranked 51st in the season-long points race, and he likely needs a top-5 finish this week to advance to the Tour Championship – a nearly impossible feat based on his position after 36 holes.

“It’s hard because I know that realistically there’s not much chance of getting in next week, but I still want to go out there and play well,” McIlroy said. “I’m here, so I might as well try to play well and try to get the most out of myself.”

Even McIlroy’s presence this week outside Chicago might have come as a surprise based on his comments following a T-22 finish at the PGA Championship. McIlroy appeared dejected in the heat of Quail Hollow, and he opened the door to possibly shelving his clubs for the rest of the year in light of his inability to shake a nagging back and rib injury.

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But the former world No. 1 ultimately decided to give it a go at The Northern Trust, where he tied for 34th two weeks after the PGA. He also teed it up at TPC Boston, where his title defense abruptly ended with a missed cut.

While he explained that playing the last three events hasn’t made any further impact on his existing injury, he also hinted that the decision to tackle the playoffs was not entirely his.

“Some decisions aren’t completely up to the individual,” McIlroy said. “There was outside expectation from elsewhere. I played these events for two reasons: thinking that I still had a chance, but for trying to fulfill obligations elsewhere. So there was two parts of it.”

McIlroy took 10 full days off following his early exit from TPC Boston, and he still plans to play the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship next month on the European Tour. After that, though, he doesn’t expect to touch a club again until the week of Thanksgiving.

It’ll be six full weeks of rest, but in McIlroy’s mind it will be a worthwhile investment of time with an eye on starting next season with a clean bill of health.

“I completely expect myself to play well next year,” he said. “If I have a really good offseason and prepare and practice on the right things, come out mentally fresh and physically fresh, I feel like ’18 will be a really good year for me. And that’s sort of where my mind is at.”