Top ranked Rory McIlroy already missed his British Open title defense with a ruptured ankle ligament, and the 26-year-old three-time major winner appears in danger of sitting out not only the PGA Championship but perhaps the rest of the season.
McIlroy ruptured the anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL) in his left ankle while playing soccer with friends more than a week prior to the British, and eventually pulled out. While currently undergoing rehabilitation for an injury that could take as long as six weeks to heal, some have questioned whether McIlroy will return at all in 2015.
The Northern Ireland star was already forced to give up his British title, and his defense of the PGA Championship he claimed last year by a single stroke is also in jeopardy. The tournament begins August 13 at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin.
Speaking last week at the Association of Golf Writers Dinner at St. Andrew’s last week and accepting an award on McIlroy’s behalf, golfer Darren Clarke made a tongue-in-cheek remark that McIlroy might not return until January.
"It was only a joke, but everybody took me seriously,” Clarke said to Irish Independent. “I've no idea when Rory will be back, but I was just winding people up a bit."
McIlroy’s manager Sean O’Flaherty also tempered what could’ve been a major storm by updating his client’s status.
"Rory is in great spirits. He's at home in Belfast. He's positive and happy and looking forward to working through the process of getting back," O’Flaherty also told The Independent, adding, “I am not a doctor. All I know is that until Rory can have the relative movement. He won't be going near a practice ground."
O’Flaherty’s comments are certainly on par with McIlroy’s initial announcement to pull out of the British , which he made on picture-sharing hub Instagram. McIlroy said: “I want to come back to tournament play when I feel 100% healthy and 100% competitive.”
And other than two more Instagram posts flashing his love for his titular Electronic Arts video game, McIlroy’s remained largely off the radar since the injury.
Given that he’s a right-handed player, a great deal of pressure is applied to the left ankle for every one of McIlroy’s swings, especially his exceptional drivers. And he’s certainly right to hold back on testing the ankle prematurely, with so many players in every sport often coming back too soon from minor or major injuries.
One target date could be the WGC Bridgestone at Firestone in Akron, Ohio, starting on Aug. 6, a tournament McIlroy won last year in the build up to the PGAs. It would allow McIlroy to work out any kinks, or to properly test the ankle.
For now, McIlroy remains the No. 1 golfer in the world even after American Zach Johnson’s victory at St. Andrews earlier this week and emerging rival Jordan Spieth’s tie for fourth-place. But should McIlroy decide to pass on the PGAs, the No. 2 Spieth, who is just 21 years old, could usurp the top ranking with another strong showing at the major finale.