ATLANTA — Early Thursday, reports emerged of a back injury Rory McIlroy had suffered earlier in the week.
After opening with an even-par 70 at the Tour Championship, the four-time major champion detailed what happened.
“On Tuesday morning, I felt a little tight, and I went into my gym at home, and I just sort of foam-rolled and stretched,” 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 [to Atlanta], felt a little better, [received] some treatment, then Wednesday morning still my right side was feeling better, and then went into the gym just to do some movements and stuff.”
It was at that point when McIlroy felt something pop.
“I was at the bottom of a squat, a body-weight squat, and my whole lower back spasmed, seized up,” McIlroy said Thursday. “I couldn’t move. I honestly couldn’t address the ball this time [Wednesday]. So to get to where I am today is good.”
Somehow, McIlroy battled through the pain and fought through his opening round. At multiple points, he grimaced, echoing Tiger Woods at some points over recent years, but McIlroy still played all 18 holes.
He shot a 2-over 37 on the front nine but carded a 2-under 33 on the back, which included four birdies.
“I hung in there,” McIlroy said. “I felt like if I could get through today, it’s better than it was [Wednesday, hopefully [Friday’s] better than it was today, and I just sort of try to keep progressing.”
Despite the pain, the Northern Irishman never thought he was going to withdraw.
He arrived at East Lake early Thursday morning, at roughly 7:30 a.m., took an ice bath, and continued to stretch out his back.
Then, he went over to the driving range, where he hit only 20 wedges—the first swings he made since last week’s BMW Championship in Chicago—and admitted to feeling okay.
“I was always going to tee off,” McIlroy said. “It was just a matter of how I felt on the course. And it progressively got a little tighter as I went, but it will hopefully get loosened up here in another 18-to-20 hours of recovery, and we will go again tomorrow.”
McIlroy is 7-under for the championship—thanks to the starting strokes format—and sits three shots back of Collin Morikawa, Keegan Bradley, and Viktor Hovland, who share the lead at 10-under par.
Jack Milko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. You can follow him on Twitter @jack_milko for more golf coverage. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough too.