Rory McIlroy and Danny Willett doubtful for PGA Championship

Danny Willett and Rory McIlroy are doubtful for the BMW PGA Championship after suffering from ongoing back problems in the Players Championship.
Rory McIlroy plays out of a bunker at the 11th hole in yesterdays second round at Sawgrass. Picture: Getty.Rory McIlroy plays out of a bunker at the 11th hole in yesterdays second round at Sawgrass. Picture: Getty.
Rory McIlroy plays out of a bunker at the 11th hole in yesterdays second round at Sawgrass. Picture: Getty.

Willett admitted his body and mind need a rest after being forced to withdraw from the £8.1 million event, the former Masters champion retiring after nine holes of the second round.

McIlroy then revealed he would have an MRI scan on Monday to determine the extent of his own back problem, the world No 2 admitting the “most important thing” is to be fit for June’s US Open.

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The BMW PGA Championship takes place in a fortnight’s time and has a prize fund of £5.4m as the first event of the European Tour’s Rolex Series.

“Hopefully, touch wood,” Willett said when asked about his prospects of competing at Wentworth. “We’ll see how things go.

“I’ve already limited the schedule down a lot, obviously all of the travelling we’ve been doing, and everything that’s been going on. Hopefully, all going well, we get back on. We have a week to do some work and see how it feels.”

Willett, who has been hampered by back problems throughout his career, struggled to an opening 79 on Thursday and had covered the back nine at Sawgrass in 40 before calling it a day.

McIlroy’s injury is a combination of the back and rib problem which kept him out for seven weeks at the start of the season, although he was able to add a 71 to his opening 73 to reach halfway at level par, just five behind clubhouse leaders Rafa Cabrera Bello and David Hearn. “I hit a couple of tee shots practising on Monday and just didn’t feel right and I’ve been getting treatment on it,” said McIlroy. “We just hope it’s not the same thing, the joint and the rib.

“It feels more like a muscle strain so I’m going to get an MRI scan on Monday after the tournament and I might have to rest for a week or two. As long as I get myself right for the US Open, that’s the most important thing.”

Masters champion Sergio Garcia and world No 1 Dustin Johnson were alongside McIlroy on level par after rounds of 71 and 73 respectively

Elsewhere, Scott Henry’s miserable run continued on the European Tour, where he has now missed ten cuts in a row this season after making an early exit from the Open de Portugal. The 30-year-old, who secured his card by finishing third at the Qualifying School last November, came undone after running up a quadruple-bogey 8 at the second as he slumped to an 80 in his second round at Morgado Golf Resort.

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In contrast, Paul Lawrie’s nephew, Sean, enjoyed his best day yet in the paid ranks as he secured a share of second spot in the PGA EuroPro Tour’s Great National Hotels Irish Masters at Ballykisteen. The 23-year-old, who is attached to the Paul Lawrie Golf Centre, earned £4,500 after closing with seven birdies in a 66 as he finished a shot behind Englishman Sam Robertshawe.

On the amateur front, Christopher Maclean moved into contention at halfway in the Irish Open Stroke-Play Championship after the Balmore man stormed home in 31, finishing with three birdies, in a second-round 67 at Royal County Down. The superb four-under effort moved him to within a shot of the clubhouse lead of three under.