Rory McIlroy confirms he will miss British Open defence

World No 1 will not be at St Andrews as he takes ‘long term view of this injury’

Rory McIlroy will not defend his British Open title at St Andrews due to an ankle injury. Photograph:   Owen Humphreys/PA

Rory McIlroy will not defend his British Open title at St Andrews due to an ankle injury. Photograph: Owen Humphreys/PA

 

The show must go on, even if the main man, the one with most box office appeal of all, won’t be there. Rory McIlroy’s withdrawal from next week’s British Open at St Andrews, due to a ruptured ankle ligament sustained in a football kick-about, means he will be the first player since Ben Hogan in 1954 to fail to defend his title.

And, as the world number one continues his rehabilitation, no timeframe has been put in place for his next appearance on tour. The 26-year-old Northern Irishman – who again took to social media to inform of his decision to miss out on defending the Claret Jug over the Old Course – is also due to defend his WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and US PGA championships next month.

Missing out on defending his Open title, though, is a huge disappointment to McIlroy, although he attempted to put a brave face on by posting a picture on instagram of his raised left ankle in a medical boot whilst watching on television as Andy Murray played at Wimbledon.

In his social media message, McIlroy said: “After much consideration, I have decided not to play in the Open Championship at St Andrews. I’m taking a long term view of this injury and, although rehab is progressing well, I want to come back to tournament play when I feel 100% healthy and 100% competitive. Thank you all for your support and best wishes. I hope to be back on the course as soon as I can . . .”

Second Captains

No further information as to McIlroy’s rehabilitation was made available, although medical opinion is that an injury such as the one he sustained to his anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL) could take anything up to 10 weeks to heal at its most severe.

The R&A, who run the championship, issued a statement wishing McIlroy well in his recovery. “We are naturally very disappointed that Rory will be unable to defend his title at St Andrews next week. Rory will play in many more Open Championships and our primary concern is for his complete recovery. Everyone associated with The Open wishes Rory the very best as he looks to return to full fitness.”

Scotland’s Russell Knox, as the first reserve on the list, was drafted into the field for the championship where American Jordan Spieth, the world number two, will be seeking to maintain his sensational form in the Majors this year. Spieth has won both the US Masters and the US Open and will be seeking the third leg of a possible calendar year Grand Slam of titles.

McIlroy – who ruptured the ATFL ligament in his left ankle when, apparently, twisting it in running to a football in a game with his friends at home in Belfast on Saturday – is just the third player in the last 50 years not able to defend a Major title: Tiger Woods failed to defend his US PGA in 2008 and Payne Stewart was tragically killed in an airplane accident before the 2000 US Open.

The last time a current world number one failed to play in the British Open was in 2008, when Woods – recovering from knee surgery – was unable to play at Royal Birkdale. On that occasion, Pádraig Harrington successfully defended the title he won at Carnoustie the previous year.

McIlroy had pulled out of the Scottish Open after sustaining the ankle injury but had hoped that treatment and rest would enable him to play at St Andrews. But that day-by-day assessment only confirmed that the injury was not of a minor nature and would require more time to heal, especially given that an early return to the course could actually lead to further complications with the injury in the future.

In making his decision, he has clearly taken on advice from medics and adopted a sensible approach.

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