Upbeat sentiment from Rory McIlroy regarding a lower back injury will be as much of a relief to Luke Donald as the world No 2 himself.
McIlroy’s participation in the Tour Championship looked in serious doubt because of the problem, which prevented him from playing any pre-tournament holes at East Lake. With the Ryder Cup a little more than a month away, Donald and his European contingent will be banking on a fit McIlroy.
No wonder the Northern Irishman declared himself “over the moon” at sitting within three of the lead here. In this handicapped event, he posted a level par 70. Afterwards, discussion naturally turned towards McIlroy’s fitness.
“On Tuesday morning I felt a little tight and I went into my gym at home,” McIlroy said. “I went to grab something and my whole right side just completely seized up, spasm.
“So I spent two hours with the physio at home, flew up here, felt a little better, had some treatment, then on Wednesday morning my right side was feeling better. I went into the gym just to do some movements and stuff. I was at the bottom of a squat, a body-weight squat, and my whole lower back spasmed, seized up. I couldn’t move. I honestly couldn’t address the ball this time yesterday. So to get to where I am today is good.
“I hung in there and I just felt like if I could get through today, it’s better than it was yesterday, hopefully tomorrow’s better than it was today and just sort of try to keep progressing.”
McIlroy had arrived at East Lake six hours before his tee time. “I hit 20 wedges, I felt OK, so then just thought I would give it a go.
“I was always going to tee off. It was just a matter of how I felt on the course. It got progressively a little tighter as I went but it will hopefully get loosened up here, then another 18 hours of recovery and go again tomorrow.”
Collin Morikawa’s 61 allowed him to share the 18-hole lead with Keegan Bradley and Viktor Hovland. Morikawa and Bradley are chasing US Ryder Cup wildcard picks. Scottie Scheffler, who started at 10 under due to his FedEx Cup lead, slipped to a 71 to trail the front-running trio by one.