A club sandwich has become the latest thing to threaten Rory McIlroy’s run in the Race to Dubai, writes Simon Plumb.
You may think the lifestyle of a top golf professional is all private jets and champagne. But while Jordan Spieth has been basking in the spotlight of stardom, it’s been a bit of a ropey old season for former world number one McIlroy.
First, he missed a prime part of the season after a freak football accident busted some ankle ligaments, and now, just weeks after he’d got back to full fitness, illness has been added to injury.
McIlroy is in China for the second of four Finals Series events on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai – a season long competition which crowns one champion golfer with a fat $2.5million bonus cheque.
Somehow, even after missing a stack of big events with his crocked hoof, McIlroy remains atop the Race to Dubai rankings. After a year which began with him hoping to make history and become just the sixth player to achieve the career grand slam, the Race to Dubai is about the only thing left to salvage from an otherwise ordinary season.
And now even that is under threat. Cue a dodgy chicken breast! A cursed club sandwich! Foul poultry! There is no easy way to say this: Rory’s got the runs.
“I had something from room service a couple of nights ago and yesterday wasn’t good at all,” McIlroy moaned. “I managed a piece of toast and a couple of bits of melon at breakfast. Even just making a couple of swings, my stomach was too sore to hit another shot. I was thinking of going out to play nine holes but I think that would do me more harm than good.”
Early in the week it looked like the incident could force McIlroy out of this week’s HSBC Champions event in Shanghai completely, which would have seen his Race to Dubai lead suddenly open for the chasing pack to close down.
But wait! overnight the Northern Irishman managed to shake off the shits to post an impressive opening round 68 – which would have been a six-under par 66 had it not been for a clumsy double bogey on the 15th.
It still may not be enough. England’s Danny Willet, who is second in the Race to Dubai, went even better than that to be just two shots off the clubhouse lead last night, setting up a edgy final stretch for the Race to Dubai over the next three days of this event – and the next three weeks until the season’s close.
Heading in to the HSBC Champions, McIlroy had a 400,000-point lead over Willet in the Race to Dubai. But with over a million points on offer for a win this week, lifting the trophy on Sunday could potentially also see Willet (2), Shane Lowry (3) or Louis Oosthuizen (4) climb to the top of the ranking, ahead of the Irishman.
The next fortnight will see the race settled, with the BMW Masters (also in China) next week and the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai bringing it all to a close the week after.
One thing’s for certain – Rory McIlroy might be best to avoid the chicken.