Hurt Rory skips title defence

Ankle injury forces world No. 1 out of British Open, potential duel with Spieth put on hold

GULLANE(Scotland) • Rory McIlroy will not defend his British Open title next week, after failing to recover from an ankle injury he suffered while playing football.

"After much consideration, I have decided not to play in the Open Championship at St Andrews," golf's world No. 1 said on Wednesday on his Twitter and Instagram accounts.

"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 per cent healthy and 100 per cent competitive.

"Thank you for all your support and best wishes. I hope to be back on the course as soon as I can."

The 26-year-old Northern Irishman had revealed the extent of the injury on his Twitter and Instagram accounts on Monday.

UNEXPECTED GAIN

It is a horrible way to sneak in but I am very happy... I can't wait to give it a blast.

RUSSELL KNOX, the Scottish golfer who will replace the injured Rory McIlroy and play in his first British Open

"Total rupture of left (ankle ligament) and associated joint capsule damage in a soccer kickabout with friends on Saturday," he wrote.

McIlroy pulled out of this week's Scottish Open and it was clear that the extent of the injury made it highly unlikely that he would be able to tee off in the British Open first round next Thursday.

The Open's organiser, the R&A, tweeted after McIlroy had said he would be missing that it was "naturally very disappointed that Rory will be unable to defend his title at St Andrews next week".

"Our primary concern is for his complete recovery. Everyone associated with The Open wishes Rory the best as he looks to return to full fitness," it added.

McIlroy's budding rivalry with American Jordan Spieth - the two of them own all four Major titles between them - had been billed as the focal point of this year's Open and his absence will be sorely felt.

His misfortune was 30-year-old Russell Knox's good fortune, as the Scottish golfer replaces him in the field for what will be his first Open.

"Nobody wants to gain because another player is injured, so it is a horrible way to sneak in, but I am very happy," said Knox, who had previously competed in only two Majors, the 2013 US Open and last year's PGA Championship. "I am into my first Open Championship and I can't wait to give it a blast."

Golfers preparing for the Scottish Open were quick to come to McIlroy's defence on Wednesday, amid suggestions that the Manchester United fan had been irresponsible for playing contact sports ahead of a major tournament.

Rickie Fowler said that it was just an unfortunate accident.

"I'm of the impression that you have to live, you can't be too cautious," the American added.

"I grew up with my fair share of action sports. That's something that I don't do as much now, but I don't stay away from it completely. I still like to have a little bit of fun."

Phil Mickelson, who won the Open in 2013, concurred by saying that he had undergone a similar fate in 1994.

"I snapped my finger while skiing before the Masters and I said then, and I feel the same way now, you can't live your life in fear. You have to enjoy the moment," he said.

"I didn't feel like anything Rory was doing was an unnecessary risk. Accidents happen. You can't stop living your life."

It remains to be seen whether McIlroy will be fit in time to defend his PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, Wisconsin next month and even whether he will be able to play again this season.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 10, 2015, with the headline 'Hurt Rory skips title defence'. Print Edition | Subscribe