Rory McIlroy will discover tomorrow when he will be able to return to competitive golf. The Ulsterman will travel to New York to meet with his sports scientist, who will examine the results of the scan McIlroy underwent on his right wrist after smashing a seven-iron into a tree root on the first day of this USPGA Championship.
Steve McGregor, who gave Lee Westwood a cautious route back to fitness after he ruptured his calf muscle last year, will draw up a recovery plan. The 22-year-old's next engagement is supposed to be the Omega Masters in Switzerland in three weeks' time. After a 74 in yesterday's third round, McIlroy named the event set in the scenic mountains of Crans as "one of my favourites". But his manager, Chubby Chandler, maintained McIlroy will not be returning until he is ready.
"Rory will see Steve and we will go from there," said Chandler. "Steve will look at the scans and decide how long Rory needs to rest and, if one is needed, will decide what the recuperation process should entail. Rory won't play until he's 110 per cent. There will be no rushing."
McIlroy is understandably eager to come back as soon as possible. "We'll see how much rest time I need," he said. "I don't think I'll need that much. It was feeling better today. Maybe I'll just not hit a ball for 10 days or so and it will be good for Switzerland." But he will listen to McGregor. His career is based around the majors and his priority is next year's Masters.
"After this event, I would have started to wind it down a bit for the season anyway and work on a few things leading into next year," he said. "Like I said, the Masters is eight months away."
He still has goals for 2011. "I want to try to finish as high up in The Race to Dubai. It looks as if Luke has it sealed up, especially as he's going well again today. But I want to try to end the season well, because even though I won one tournament, it was a major, and I still want to win a few more times to call this season a success."
Dreams of a second major of the season were well and truly extinguished yesterday. Again, it wasn't the long game – hence the wrist sprain – that was largely to blame. The first was a case in point. McIlroy located the fairway easily enough but from there missed the green and took yet another three-putt. Bogeys on the third, sixth and eighth saw him reach the turn in five-over.
Eventually a putt dropped when he sank a 12-footer on the 14th, making it two birdies in succession. But he found the water on the par-three 15th and the resulting double bogey summed up his morning, if not his week. Already the regrets have started over that shot in the wood in the first round.
"If I had pulled that shot off on Thursday and everything would have been fine, then I probably would have said, 'yeah, I'll do it again'," he said. "But if I was in that position again... well maybe the 23-year-old McIlroy wouldn't do it. It's all about learning from your mistakes."
If McIlroy's reappearance is uncertain, that of Tiger Woods is even more of a mystery. After missing his first USPGA cut here on Friday the former world No 1 now faces at least six weeks on the sidelines. On his return from a three-month lay-off from injury, he had expected to play well enough at last week's WGC Bridgestone Invitational and here at least to qualify for the 125-strong FedEx play-offs, which stretch over five weeks.
But his desultory showing, which earned him his worst placing in 62 majors as an amateur or a pro, means his next confirmed outing is at the Australian Open in Sydney, involving another three months without competitive golf. Will he look elsewhere to play in the meantime, on the European Tour even? "He and I will talk about it [wherever he plays next]," said his manager, Mark Steinberg. "We weren't contemplating this, that's for sure."