GULLANE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy has competed in 26 major championships as a professional, but when he plays his 27th is unclear. On Wednesday, the World No. 1 pulled out of the British Open at St. Andrews, where he would have been the defending champion, citing an injured left ankle.
McIlroy wrote on an Instagram post that he is taking a long-term view of his injury, reportedly a total rupture of the left ATFL (ankle ligament) and associated joint capsule that he damaged in a soccer kickabout with friends on Saturday.
McIlroy continued by saying that his rehabilitation is progressing well and that he wants to return to tournament play when he feels 100 percent healthy and can compete at his best.
The reaction was swift and sympathetic to the plight of the 26-year-old Northern Irishman, whose 11 Tour victories include four major championships.
“Its hugely disappointing, especially with him and Jordan (Spieth) and everything that’s going on,” countryman Graeme McDowell said Wednesday at Gullane Golf Club, site of this week’s Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open. “It was a really exciting Open for all involved, and I’m sure he’s really, really disappointed.”
McDowell had texted McIlroy wishing him well and isn’t surprised by news of the withdrawal.
England’s Justin Rose, the 2013 U.S. Open champion and a Ryder Cup teammate of McIlroy’s, also was not surprised by the news.
“I would have been surprised if he was there, given the initial diagnosis,” Rose said Wednesday after the pro-am. “But it’s a big shame for him and the tournament.”
Phil Mickelson knows how McIlroy feels after having broken his leg in a skiing accident before the 1994 Masters, leading to three months away from golf.
“I said then, and I feel the same way now, you can’t live your life in fear,” Mickelson said. “You have to enjoy the moment. I didn’t feel like anything he was doing was an unnecessary risk. He was just playing around, and accidents happen. People get hurt taking a shower and doing normal day-to-day things. You can’t stop living your life.”
McIlroy had intended to play the Scottish Open as a tune-up for his defense next week at St. Andrews. Instead, he will rehab the ankle for the next two weeks and hope to returning to defend his PGA Championship at Whistling Straits on Aug. 13-16.
But this chance at the Old Course only comes around every so often, and McDowell thinks it would have been an excellent opportunity for McIlroy.
“No one would love to stop Jordan in his tracks next week more then Rory,” said McDowell, alluding to No. 2-ranked Spieth and his bid for the third leg of the Grand Slam. “I really believed when I saw the golf course last Saturday, I believed Rory was rightly a favorite around there. I really believed he could get it done around there.”