Injury shouldn't limit McIlroy in Match Play

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Rory McIlroy has stretched ligaments in his lower back, although it is not expected to affect his play or keep him from the Match Play Championship next week in Arizona.

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy expects to play in next week's Match Play Championship despite stretching ligaments in his lower back.   Associated Press
Associated Press
Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy expects to play in next week's Match Play Championship despite stretching ligaments in his lower back.

His agent, Chubby Chandler , says the 20-year-old from Northern Ireland had a back scan Monday that revealed nothing more than stretched ligaments. Chandler says it came from 10 days of practice last month to get ready for the season, then playing two tournaments in three weeks.

McIlroy, the seventh-ranked player in the world, was third at Abu Dhabi and tied for sixth last week in Dubai.

Chandler says McIlroy goes through a back scan every year as a precaution. He says McIlroy will rest this week and have therapy on his lower back before going to Arizona.

MAJOR PLAYER: Steve Stricker is No. 2 in the official world golf ranking. He might be No. 1 on a list not so official.

Ever since Phil Mickelson won the 2004 Masters Tournament for his first major, the search for the "best player to have never won a major" has settled on Sergio Garcia , mostly by default. The list had always featured players in their 30s or early 40s who had won at least 10 times, were highly ranked and who had a couple of close calls in the majors.

Garcia fits that now, with 18 victories worldwide and being in serious contention five times in the majors.

Now, however, the focus is shifting back to age.

Stricker turns 43 in two months. He has won a World Golf Championship, two times in the FedEx Cup playoffs (against some of the strongest fields of the year), and he was in position Sunday to win the U.S. Open and the British Open in 2007.

He has avoided the label for so long because Stricker virtually disappeared during a three-year stretch through 2005, when he lost his PGA Tour card and didn't even make it through Q-school.

Asked whether he was the best without a major, Stricker said he would take that as a compliment. But he didn't think the label belongs to him alone, nor did he think it would be easy to shed.

"There's a lot of other good players that have not won majors," Stricker said. "Sergio hasn't won one, Lee Westwood is looking for one. There's a lot of other great players that have not won a major, and it's hard to do. You only get four cracks at it a year, and there's definitely a higher intensity at those majors."

THORPE SUSPENDED: Champions Tour golfer Jim Thorpe was sentenced to one year in prison for failing to pay more than $2 million in income taxes. Then came another punishment -- this one from the PGA Tour.

Thorpe told Golfweek magazine that he received an e-mail last Friday from the PGA Tour informing him that he has been suspended.

It presumably was for conduct unbecoming a professional -- the tour does not comment or confirm player discipline.

Thorpe, 61, was not allowed to enter the Ace Group Classic this week.

"I don't know the bylaws, and there's probably something in the (regulations)," Thorpe told Golfweek . "I guess they feel they have to protect other players."

Payne at Pebble

Augusta National Golf Club and Masters Tournament chairman Billy Payne is among the amateurs competing in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, which starts Thursday.

Payne's pro partner is 1998 Masters champion Mark O'Meara.

The 53-year-old O'Meara, who regularly plays the Champions Tour, is a five-time winner of the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am (1985, 1989, 1990, 1992 and 1997).

O'Meara won 16 times on the PGA Tour.

-- From staff and wire reports


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