Notebook: McIlroy dealing with back spasms

Associated Press

Charlotte, N.C. — The lingering pain Rory McIlroy felt when he finished the PGA Championship was not just about ending another year without a major.

McIlroy revealed he has felt spasms in a muscle in his upper back the last few weeks, and he’s not sure when he will play next. It could be in a few weeks when the FedEx Cup playoffs begin. It could be sometime next year.

“I have a good bit of time to get healthy and address a few things going forward,” McIlroy said. “As I said, the next big thing is April, and that’s really what my focus will be on from now until then.”

April is the Masters, the only major keeping McIlroy from the career Grand Slam.

McIlroy now has gone three years since his last major title at Valhalla in the PGA Championship. This year was all about injuries, and apparently he’s not over them yet.

“Right now I can feel my left rhomboid going into spasm,” McIlroy said after closing with a 3-under 68 at Quail Hollow. “It’s sort of the way it has been the last few weeks. I have upped my practice coming into these two events because I wanted to feel like I was in a good place in my game.”

He was three shots behind going into the final round at the Bridgestone Invitational last week until Hideki Matsuyama ran away with it.

At the PGA Championship, he was slowed by bad stretches in the middle of his rounds that never allowed him to get under par.

“It’s a tough one because I go out there and play and shoot decent scores,” McIlroy said. “But when I come off the course, I feel my left rhomboid going into spasm. (The) inside of my left arm goes numb. So I don’t know what to do. I’ve got this next week off to assess what I need to go forward.”

McIlroy has headed home to Northern Ireland and planned to meet with his trainer to figure out the next step.

Along with failing to win a major for the third straight year, McIlroy hasn’t won anywhere around the world since he won the Tour Championship last September to capture the FedEx Cup and its $10 million prize.

But it was a tough year from the start. He discovered a slight rib fracture after a playoff loss in the South African Open and he took seven weeks off to let it heal. He got married after the Masters, and the pain returned at The Players Championship in May. McIlroy believes he practiced too much too soon, and he said he would have to spend the rest of the year managing his practice time and his fitness.

But he didn’t have many answers when he left Quail Hollow.

McIlroy said the pain wasn’t as bad as it was early in the year at the Players, when he said it really flared up on him. But it’s still there.

“I can feel it,” he said. “I can play 18 holes. I warm up, it’s OK. But once I get done, having to go through the whole routine of getting it ready to go again the next day, you shouldn’t have to do that. If it was injury-free, that wouldn’t happen.”

The FedEx Cup playoffs feature four tournaments in five weeks starting on Aug. 24. He also has European Tour membership, which includes late-season events in Turkey, South Africa and Dubai.

“Look, 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 of weeks’ time. It really depends.”

Johnson finishes strong

Dustin Johnson, the world’s top-ranked player, finished with a 4-under 67 and finished the tournament at par.

Johnson made seven birdies and shot 32 on the front nine. The key for Johnson was making some of the shorter putts that he had been missing all week at Quail Hollow.

Johnson says his back is still a little tight, but he’s not in any pain and plans to play in the FedEx Cup playoffs that start in two weeks as well as the President’s Cup.

Woods retains record

Tiger Woods will remain the youngest player to win golf’s career Grand Slam.

Jordan Spieth closed out his run at Woods’ record with a 70 in the final round, leaving him 2 over for the tournament. Spieth had conceded as early as Friday his chance of winning the PGA Championship was over.

He played well for the most part on Sunday.

He had one blemish — a double bogey on seventh hole — in an otherwise bogey-free round that included three birdies.

When Spieth competes in the PGA Championship next year in St. Louis, he will be older than Woods was when he earned the career Grand Slam at 24 years, 6 months old.

Shot of the day

He won’t win the PGA Championship, but Jon Rahm struck one of the more memorable shots of the week.

Rahm hit a backward chip on the par-4 18th hole and somehow landed it on the green.

He was in a tough spot Sunday when his second shot stopped in the primary rough near a stream, across the red line marking the water hazard.

The right-handed Rahm stood with his back to the green and swung the club backward with only his right arm.

The ball bounced four times before rolling 45 feet from the pin, drawing a loud cheer from the gallery.

He missed that putt, settled for bogey and finished at 3 over for the tournament.