It may be only October but Rory McIlroy already has Georgia on his mind. After completing his long wind down at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in St Andrews on Sunday, the world No 6 is now in the midst of a three-month period away from the spotlight during a hiatus that will start off with rest and recovery before he ups the ante and begins his robust preparations for the new year.

The 2018 PGA Tour season is already underway but McIlroy will not be seen for a while yet. His well-documented injury, which he picked up at the start of the year and never quite managed to shake off, led to a hugely frustrating season but the Northern Irishman is already looking forward to some spring freshness when the Masters rolls round at Augusta next April.

“I had planned on playing a heavy schedule into Augusta this year and that didn't pan out because I missed a few events because of injury,” said McIlroy, who needs a Masters Green Jacket to complete the career Grand Slam. “I plan on playing a heavy schedule going into Augusta next year, though. It would be nice to get a win or two heading into Augusta so I could get my confidence up and feel like I've really hit the ground running. But, short-term, there are a lot of goals I’ve set myself. If I can achieve all these little goals that I've set myself within the next three months, I'll be fully prepared to go into next year.”

Getting fit so he can return to a full-blown training and practising regime is certainly one of those goals. When you’re a golfing thoroughbred, you want to be able to run a good race, after all.

“The most frustrating thing has been the fact that I’ve not been able to work on my game the way I wanted,” added the 28-year-old of the hindrance of that rib injury. “On the golf course, I was hitting shots that I don't normally hit but I knew why that was. I just couldn't hit the amount of golf balls I needed to hit to be consistent with my swing and to be consistent with what I was trying to do.

“Quail Hollow (at the US PGA) was the one for me because that's a course that I've been so good on before and I felt like it was a great chance to add to that Major tally. It was a big opportunity for me but I just wasn't in complete control of my game. I finished tied 20th or something and I was so dejected because I couldn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel this year. I didn't see myself getting into contention because if you are not putting the work in and you have all these sort of symptoms and you're just not feeling quite like you should be, you're sort of thinking, ‘what's the point?’

“So it's nice to be able to step away and take this time. I’m going to be in the gym for the next eight weeks, getting myself ready to hit balls again and be physically right, and then I can really practice and work hard and get ready for the first few events of next year.”

At 28, McIlroy, who has been a touring pro for a decade, has plenty of golfing life in him but he recently conceded that it’s a young man’s game and he is well aware of the new waves coming through.

He said: “I'm still confident that I have the ability to do it. Golf and the quality of golf out there now has only got better. I've been able to win tournaments against the best players in the world and I’m confident that I'll be able to do that again.

“A golfer's prime should be sort of late 20s, early 30s. What I've been able to do over these past 10 years and what I've been able to learn, I can put into the next 10 and be an even better golfer.”