Rory McIlroy may be unable to play in bid to protect his Race to Dubai lead over Sheffield's Danny Willett

Rory McIlroy (Picture: PA Wire).
Rory McIlroy (Picture: PA Wire).
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RORY McILROY and Jordan Spieth are both likely to be far from their best as they contest the final World Golf Championship event of the year in Shanghai this week.

World No 2 Spieth did not touch a club for two weeks after helping the United States retain the Presidents Cup last month, while McIlroy is a doubt to even play the HSBC Champions at Sheshan International after suffering from a severe bout of food poisoning.

On Tuesday, McIlroy tweeted a picture of part of a menu showing a club sandwich and Japanese baked eel, along with the words: ''Who would have thought the eel would be the safer bet!? Hopefully I'll feel better tomorrow.''

That hope proved in vain as the world No 3 was forced to withdraw from the pre-tournament pro-am, telling reporters: "It wasn't good at all.

''I just had a piece of toast and a couple of bits of melon for breakfast and I came out here thinking that I would just try to hit a few more balls, but even after making a couple of swings my stomach was too sore even to attempt another shot.

"I was thinking of going out to play nine holes, but I decided that it would do me more harm than good."

McIlroy has been prescribed medication by the on-site doctor and hopes to be able to tee off alongside Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson as he looks to increase his lead in the Race to Dubai.

The 26-year-old is almost 400,000 points ahead of Sheffield's Danny Willett, despite having to settle for a share of sixth place in Turkey last week after starting the final round just a shot off the lead.

"I've done well here every time I have played here," said the four-time major winner, who has not finished outside the top six in four appearances and is a combined 52 under par. "I've not won it, but I've been close.

"Hopefully if I can get through the first couple of days and play okay, I'll be feeling a lot better at the weekend and I can make a run at it.

"I played well in Turkey and I felt like my game was in good shape. I was a little bit disappointed with how I played on Sunday; I didn't really capitalise on any of the chances I gave myself and started hitting my iron shots left, which cost me.

"It was nice to feel in contention again and to feel that buzz and adrenaline. Hopefully I can get myself in that position again this week, but most importantly I need to get healthy first and if I can do that then concentrate on the golf."

Spieth can replace the absent Jason Day as world No 1 with a top-10 finish, but the Masters, US Open and FedEx Cup champion expects to be rusty after his longest lay-off for 10 years.

"This past season was spectacular," the 22-year-old said. "We did some unbelievable work throughout the season to start strong and finish strong.

"I still consider this (event) in my mind part of 2015. Obviously it's part of the wraparound (PGA Tour) season, but this would be the icing on the cake if we were able to compete and capture a win here; obviously that's our expectation.

"But I am aware that it's going to be a little tougher than normal given I took off a lot of time in the last few weeks. I didn't touch my clubs for two weeks, which is the longest time by a week that I've taken off since I was probably 12 or 13 years old.

"Coming in here and with what I've experienced within the last four or five days at home and here, I'm not hitting the same shots that I'm used to seeing.

"It's getting close; the more balls I hit, the more consistent it's getting. But I just have this stray one so my mindset this week is going to be to stay focused, to try and play with a smile on my face.

"Obviously I still believe that I can get out there and compete. I still believe that my best stuff can come out. I just know that I haven't had as much practice as I did leading into the previous tournaments."

Spieth will partner Sweden's Henrik Stenson and defending champion Bubba Watson in the first two rounds. Watson defeated Tim Clark in a play-off 12 months ago after holing a bunker shot for eagle on the 72nd hole to force extra holes.