Rory McIlroy brought the curtain down on his first winless season in nine years by vowing to return as a major force next year.

The four-time major champion ended a frustrating season on Sunday with a round of 72 for a disappointing four-under par total and a distant share of 63rd place in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

It is the first time since 2008 that McIlroy has gone through a whole season without a victory.

"My last round of 2017 summed-up all of 2017 with not much happening either good or bad and I was sort of stuck in neutral," he said.

"Yeah, it hasn't been the year I wanted on the golf course. I started the year with grand ambitions and trying to add to my major tally and trying to win golf tournaments, and trying to get back to near the top of the world rankings.

"I wasn't able to do that but I feel like that, and even though I haven't won and the results haven't been what I wanted, I can still salvage something from the rest of the year even though I am not playing."

McIlroy now shuts down his season, firstly for a series of tests, including to establish if he is allergic to certain foods, while also allowing a rib injury he sustained 10 months ago to fully heal.

He will then venture to Dubai in late November where he will commence his pre-2018 practice schedule.

"I want to give myself the opportunity now to put a lot of foundations in place going forward and that is what I will concentrate (on) from now to the end of the year," he said.

"There is a lot of areas of my game that need sharpening up, like my wedge play and putting, as these are two main areas I need to get better at.

"My iron play is coming on and I saw some good signs last week at Close House and while I didn't play all that well this week it was nice to feel like I was in the hunt at some stage at the end of my season.

"But that is a few weeks away as I will not start hitting balls to the end of November, so the next weeks is about rehab and being in the gym and getting my body right so that I will (be) right to go into that practice and start 2018 strongly."

McIlroy will return mid-January and likely not on the European Tour, but on the PGA Tour's 'West Coast Swing'.

He is already confirmed to contest the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, starting on February 8, 2018, for the first time.