Darren Clarke has backed Rory McIlroy to bounce back after a disappointing 2017 season where he felt his fellow Northern Irishman ‘pushed himself too hard’.
McIlroy has been seriously hampered by a rib problem that was diagnosed after a runner-up finish at the BMW SA Open in January and, up until this week’s BMW Championship, has only managed to tee it up in 15 events.
This week’s penultimate FedEx Cup event could by McIlroy’s last in the States this year as he lies a lowly 51st in the standings (top 30 progress), with next month’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship confirmed to be the four-time major winner’s final tournament of what could be his first winless calendar year since his maiden professional victory in 2009.
“It’s been a difficult year for Rory because he got injured in the first tournament and to try and play through an injury that’s niggling away, it restricts you,” Clarke told The National ahead of the MENA Tour’s Dubai Creek Open in UAE.
“And then he had a limited playing schedule early because of his injury, didn’t get into any real flow and, when he did play, he pushed himself too hard.
“It’s a difficult thing. It never gave him any chance to get any real momentum this year and momentum is huge whenever you’re up at that standard of golf.”
McIlroy recently dropped to No.6 in the world – his lowest ranking since before the 2014 Open – but Clarke doesn’t see him staying as low as that for very long once he gives suitable time for that injury to heal once and for all.
“Rory’s the most talented player in the world, so he’ll be fine,” added Clarke. “He’ll go see all the right people and put that injury to bed and get himself right. And when he does he’ll hopefully come out firing.”