As the oldest member of the world's top five by some eight years, Henrik Stenson likes to put the sport's youngsters in their place every now and again. But as affable as this 40-year-old prankster is, he had a serious message for Rory McIlroy and Co in Abu Dhabi yesterday - "keep on hitting the ball as hard as you are and you will risk injury".

The comments must have felt especially appropriate from where McIlroy was sitting; 80km away in Dubai nursing a sore rib. The world No 2 was forced to withdraw from this Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on Monday after an MRI scan revealed a stress fracture, which could take up to six weeks to heal.

McIlroy believes the injury was caused by his strenuous off-season, which featured him spending hours on the range testing new equipment.

Yet Stenson suspects that the aggressive swings made by those such as McIlroy and Jason Day, the world No 1 who has, himself, missed events with back complaints, could be the main factor in the higher injury rate now being suffered by the world's elite.


"You see how hard both Jason and Rory go after it," Stenson said. "Not that I necessarily just pat it myself, but they really go after it, and of course, that's going to put a lot of pressure on knees and back and neck and so on. So, yeah, you've got to watch it. I mean, they are working hard on their fitness, as we know.

"And the advice I would give to the next generation coming out is just making sure that you work hard from the beginning on your fitness. It doesn't show up normally when you're 20, 25 - it comes at a later stage. But we've more injuries now, possibly because of the way everyone tries to hit it and get distance off the tee. Of course that's going to give you more chances of being injured."

McIlroy acknowledges he did not begin a proper training regime until he was 21 and worked with renowned fitness instructor Steve McGregor.

McIlroy has since become a self-confessed "gym-aholic" but, under McGregor, has ensured that he does not over-do it. McGregor is helping McIlroy, 27, in his latest recovery phase and he hopes to tee it up alongside Tiger Woods in the Dubai Desert Classic in two weeks. However, it seems a safer bet that he will not be seen again in competitive action until late February.

-Telegraph Group Ltd