Rory McIlroy hurt his lower back before arriving at East Lake for the FedEx Cup finale, bad timing for an injury as he tries to chase an $18 million bonus at the Tour Championship with the Ryder Cup a month away.
McIlroy did not hit balls and was limited to about 20 shots on the range before deciding to play the opening round. He is the No. 3 seed, meaning he started the Tour Championship at 7-under par, three behind top-seeded Scottie Scheffler.
He did not mention the injury to the lower right side of his back during his pre-tournament press conference.
McIlroy was told upon teeing off that he could get therapy during the round provided it did not cause undue delay. His physical therapist walked outside the ropes on the front nine, but McIlroy indicated that he did not need him.
But whatever the extent of the injury, its effect was obvious. McIlroy rarely finished his swing and twice dropped the club after following through. He was able to crouch when reading putts or stick a tee in the ground.
McIlroy made his first birdie on the 10th hole, only to miss long and left in gnarly rough on the par-3 11th for another bogey that dropped him to 2 over for the day, eight behind Scheffler.
If he were to withdraw, he would collect a $500,000 bonus. The winner of the FedEx Cup gets $18 million. McIlroy, the only three-time winner, has come from behind in each of his FedEx Cup titles.
He is to play the Irish Open in two weeks, followed by the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth on the European tour. The Ryder Cup is the week of Sept. 25 to Oct. 1 at Marco Simone outside Rome.
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