After the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow, and a tie for 22nd at a course that Rory McIlroy has thrived at, winning twice, he hinted that his season might be over.
His left rhomboid (upper back muscle) was going into spasm, the inside of his left arm was going numb and the next big thing on his radar, he told us, was Augusta.
But then he was at the three play-offs, the best he could manage was a tie for 34th and he finished 28 places outside making it to East Lake this week.
Speaking at the Northern Trust at the end of August, two weeks after the PGA and the first of the play-offs, McIlroy was asked what his schedule would be for the rest of his 2017?
“The Dunhill Links Championship, and then 2018,” he said.
It was a fairly gloomy assessment of a fairly gloomy year.
But now, having missed out on even playing in the Tour Championship this week, a tournament he won so memorably 12 months ago, he has chosen to play in the British Masters at Close House next week.
From there it will be on to Scotland the following week and then, presumably, a few months off?
Generally we know where we are with McIlroy and he suggested last week that maybe his involvement in recent weeks wasn’t completely down to him.
“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 also trying to fulfil obligations elsewhere. So there were two parts of it.”
By obligations you would imagine he means the PGA Tour and his sponsors rather than some extra pocket money for his stand-in caddie and best mate Harry Diamond.
Whatever the reasons it’s incredible news for the tournament and the host Lee Westwood who also has the last two Masters champions Sergio Garcia and Danny Willett, major winners Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell along with the cream of the European crop in the field. The British Masters was McIlroy’s first start as a professional and it is 10 years to the day since he joined the paid ranks.
He has won at least once every season since 2009 so he now has two more chances to keep that run going. It should be noted that while it has been a year to forget on the course his form on the ‘European Tour’ has been fairly impressive – from 10 starts he has made €1,447,358 – thanks to his top 10s in the Masters and Open Championship and two WGCs.
McIlroy said of the decision to play in Northumberland: “I’m looking forward to playing my first British Masters for a while (he last played in 2008). I kind of had it in the back of my mind that if I didn’t make the Tour Championship then there was a chance to tee it up at Close House, so I have decided to do that before finishing my season off the next week at the Dunhill Links.”