Rory McIlroy admits internal and external pressures led him to decide against sitting out the rest of the season to rest a persistent rib injury.
However, the four-time major winner believes his plans for a lengthy break from October can be the catalyst for an even more successful second half of his career.
Speaking after a tie for 22nd in the US PGA Championship which completed a third successive year without a major title, McIlroy said he was in two minds about competing again in 2017.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” said McIlroy after a closing 68 at Quail Hollow, one of just just 13 events he has played this season. “You might not see me until next year. You might see me in a couple of weeks’ time.”
After seeking the advice of sports scientist Steve McGregor in Northern Ireland, McIlroy was told he could not make the injury any worse and will try to win the overall FedEx Cup title — and USD $10m (€8.46m ) bonus — for the second year in succession.
The 28-year-old will then play the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship with his father Gerry from October 5-8, before calling time on his 2017 season in a bid to get fully fit for the new campaign.
“I was unsure and I came pretty close to deciding to wait and get myself healthy, but I still have a lot of time after these events to do that and I feel like I am capable of winning,” McIlroy told a press conference ahead of the Northern Trust Open last night.
“There was definitely external pressures [to play], but I think the real thing for me was I want to win at least once before the end of the year.
“I haven’t not won a tournament since the 2008 season, which was my real rookie season on the European Tour. Even in 2013 when I struggled I went down to Australia at the end of the year and won.
“I’m excited for it, to have three months where I can focus on myself, my health, my game and just improvement. I don’t think I’m ever going to get a chance like this in my career again. I feel like it’s a tremendous opportunity to improve as a golfer and with my health and everything.
“We have a three-month plan going forward. I’m getting a lot of assessments and testing done on the 19th and 20th of October and, from there, all we’ll be focusing on is getting me in the best possible shape with my body and my game going into 2018.”
McIlroy, who was set to meet with statistics guru Mark Broadie immediately after his press conference to see which areas of his game most need improvement, added: “I just want to be healthy and have zero distractions.
“It will be 10 years since I was a pro and I feel like all there is is clear road ahead of us from now until 2030, for example.
“If I can work hard, look after myself, practise the right way and have the right people around me, there is no reason that I can’t have a more successful 10 years than the 10 I’ve just had. That’s really what I’m focusing on.”
While McIlroy has yet to win a tournament this season, four players who have won multiple times are battling to be named PGA Tour player of the year at the end of the play-offs.
Open champion Jordan Spieth, US PGA winner Justin Thomas, Hideki Matsuyama and Dustin Johnson are the leading contenders and Spieth would love to beat close friend Thomas to the title.
“I think it’s a close race right now,” Spieth said. “It’s a tremendous honour. You’re the MVP (most valuable player) of the league and when you put it that way it’s something that you want really badly.
“It’s a fight and something that is keeping me going out and grinding at the end of a really good season.”
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