Shanghai - A club sandwich could derail Rory McIlroy's anticipated showdown with Jordan Spieth and a stellar field at this week's World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions in Shanghai beginning Thursday.
Race to Dubai leader McIlroy had stomach pains which forced him to miss a colourful tournament launch event Tuesday, and despite being seen on the practice green early on Wednesday, he pulled out of his 10:45am pro-am tee time.
"I'm not feeling great to be honest," he said before retiring to his hotel room. "I had something (to eat) a couple of nights ago and yesterday wasn't good at all.
"I thought I would be better this morning... and I came here and tried to hit some balls, but even just making a couple of swings my stomach was too sore. So I just need another day of rest and hopefully I will be better tomorrow and I can play." McIlroy had tweeted a picture Tuesday night of part of a room service menu which had "Club Sandwich" and "Japanese Baked Eel Set" listed. "Who would have thought the eel would be the safer bet!?" McIlroy was the comment.
The world number three has 24 hours to recover before his 10:45am (0245 GMT) first-round tee time on Thursday when he is due to play alongside world number five Rickie Fowler and big-hitting, eighth-ranked Dustin Johnson.
McIlroy has endured an injury-wrecked 2015 after tearing ankle ligaments playing football, which caused him to miss the British Open in July where he was defending champion.
The Northern Irishman showed glimpses of being close to his best at last week's Turkish Airlines Open, where he was tied for sixth giving him high hopes of adding a second WGC title in 2015 to the WGC-Cadillac Matchplay he won in May.
World number two and 2015 double major champion Jordan Spieth will start favourite Thursday when he tees off alongside the defending champion at Sheshan Golf Club, fourth-ranked Bubba Watson, and Sweden's Henrik Stenson, the world number seven at 9:45 am.
Spieth, 22, has not played competitive golf since the Presidents Cup in South Korea a month ago.
He said that the break had done him good at the end of an amazing season where he won the US Masters, US Open and FedEx Cup, and amassed 15 top-10 finishes and a staggering $22 million in prize money.
"I've had a few weeks off, and didn't touch a club for a couple of weeks after the Presidents Cup," Spieth told AFP.
"I was able to get some rest and this being a World Golf Championships event it's one I certainly want to bring my best game to. My energy level is high, I'm good to go." Stenson said he has had a solid season but just needed to get the win that has so far eluded him to make it a memorable 2015.
"The best of the best are here and it's going to be a tricky week if you want to up there," said the Swede.
"It would be very nice to finish with a win, no question about it. We know 2013 was a great, great year for me. I think if I could finish off with a win these last couple of tournaments then it would probably make this year the second best of my career." Watson won in dramatic style a year ago at Sheshan after holing a 35-yard bunker shot for an eagle at the final green to get into a playoff. He said he would love to defend his title, but in a more straightforward manner.
"It was wild," the big-hitting left-hander told a news conference Wednesday. "Went from two up to bogey, then made a double bogey and I made an eagle.
"So it was very exciting for everybody. I would like to have an easier victory." The WGC-HSBC Champions begins Thursday in Shanghai with an elite 78-man field and 36 of the world's top 60 players taking part.