McIlroy finds feet on return from ankle injury at Whistling Straits

Northern Irishman makes fringes of contention at US PGA Championship

 Rory McIlroy at Whistling Straits: “I feel like I can be very competitive for the next few weeks.” Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy at Whistling Straits: “I feel like I can be very competitive for the next few weeks.” Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

 

If Rory McIlroy departed this 97th edition of the US PGA Championship empty-handed, with no further addition to his trophy cabinet, at least he did so in the knowledge his ruptured ankle ligament is healed – as much as it can be in such a time frame – and that there are new targets for the 26-year-old to focus in on for the rest of the year.

A final round 69 for nine-under-par 279 left McIlroy in the top 20 on his return to competition, with four birdies – on the sixth, seventh, 10th and 16th – and a lone bogey on his card but too far adrift heading in to make any late charge.

“I’m walking away pretty happy with how the week went. Obviously it isn’t a win and didn’t get myself into contention, but considering six weeks ago I wasn’t able to walk, it’s not a bad effort,” said McIlroy.

Of the ankle, he added: “I’ve had no discomfort with it at all. I’m still rehabbing it, doing exercise on it every night and every morning, getting treatment on it. But it’s good . . . the residual swelling that just sort of comes from activity, that probably won’t go away for another two or three months, but it’s nothing to worry about.”

Now that the Majors have come and gone for 2015, McIlroy intends to target the FedEx Cup playoff series and the European Tour’s Race to Dubai . . . and on duelling with rival Jordan Spieth for that world number one spot.

Given the uncertainly that surrounded McIlroy’s build-up to the season’s final Major, having missed out on the defence of his British Open and Bridgestone Invitational titles due to an ankle injury sustained on July 4th in a football kick-about, his ability to not only play four rounds but to get on to the fringes of contention gave him a huge boost for the weeks and months ahead.

McIlroy plans on taking two weeks off, which means missing out on the start of the FedEx Cup playoffs at the Barclays in New Jersey, before resuming play at the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston and then on to the BMW Championship in Chicago and the Tour Championship in Atlanta. It will be a three-week stretch that will define his PGA Tour season, now that he has relinquished his hold on the Claret Jug and the Wanamaker Trophy.

“I’ll just keep doing the rehab and doing everything I need to then. And then the week after I’ll start to practice and build up again and get ready for Boston.”

Positives? “I feel like I wasn’t tentative coming back, I was committed to most shots and most swings that I took. Just getting back into the rhythm of it, getting back, I thought it might have taken me a few weeks, but I feel like it’s right there; [it] feels like I haven’t been away for that long, which is nice. I feel like I can be very competitive for the next few weeks,” said McIlroy.

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