Rory McIlroy targeting March return from rib injury

Rory McIlroy isn’t playing in next week’s Dubai Desert Classic on the European Tour, missing the second leg of what is typically an early season United Arab Emirates double for the Ulsterman.

He’s sidelined with a rib injury that almost forced him out of the South African Open and led to him withdrawing from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and Dubai. When he first announced the true nature of the injury, he left the timetable for his return undefined. However, McIlroy now has a target date to return.

Speaking to Fox Sports’ Shane Bacon on the Clubhouse podcast, McIlroy said he’s looking to come back in March at the WGC-Mexico Championship.

“I’m trying to get back for Mexico,” said McIlroy. “That’s my timetable for return. I could probably get back before that. For example, if I were to play Honda [the Honda Classic at the end of February] and then go straight to Mexico, I would be playing two weeks in a row.

“I’d like to ease my way back in gently. Mexico is the perfect time to return because it’s four rounds, there’s no cut. I can see how everything feels. I have a week off after that. All signs pointed towards Mexico being the one I could come back to and be 100 percent comfortable at. Hopefully it works out that way, and that’s when I’m back.”

The WGC-Mexico Championship, which essentially replaces the WGC-Cadillac Championship formerly held at Trump Doral near Miami, starts March 2 and is a no-cut event.

From there, McIlroy could look at another start before the Masters in the Florida Swing or in Texas. Were McIlroy to win a fifth major at Augusta National, he would complete the career Grand Slam.

 Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.