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Rory McIlroy needs 'prolonged period off,' calls for winter break from golf

OLD WESTBURY, N.Y. -- After recently debating whether to shut himself down for the year due to injury, Rory McIlroy told ESPN on Tuesday that he is planning to play five more tournaments before taking a 3½-month break.

"I'm OK to play these next four out of five weeks," McIlroy said, "but then I do need a prolonged period off at some point in 2017 to be ready for 2018."

A week and a half ago, McIlroy concluded a 22nd-place finish at the PGA Championship by telling reporters that he was unsure whether a recurring rib injury would preclude him from competing again in the near future. It is the same injury that caused him to miss more than a month on two occasions earlier this year. He also revealed after the PGA Championship that he was enduring spasms and numbness in his left arm.

McIlroy answered part of the mystery Friday when he committed to this week's Northern Trust event, the first of four FedEx Cup playoff tournaments, and revealed the rest of the puzzle while spending time at Yankee Stadium two days before the opening round.

"I feel like I'm going to have a good bit of time at the end of the year to work on my fitness, to work on my game," McIlroy said. "Guys who play both tours, you don't get this opportunity to take a couple of months off and really work on what you need to work on, on your game -- a real and proper offseason. Like every other sport has, basically. I'm excited for that."

McIlroy is the defending FedEx Cup champion, but he hasn't qualified for all four playoff events this year. He enters this week at 43rd on the points list; the top 30 will reach the Tour Championship.

He intimated that his plan is to compete in the FedEx Cup playoffs then play the Dunhill Links Championship Oct. 5-8 with his father, Gerry, as his amateur partner. McIlroy would then take his extended break.

Based on the schedule, it stands to reason he would return for the European Tour's Middle East swing in January.

"I'm happy to do that," McIlroy said. "Because that's an exciting prospect for me, to be able to turn up to 2018 and be ready to go."

ESPN's Jason Sobel contributed to this report.