LONDON • Fears about Rory McIlory's non-participation in the US PGA Championship increased on Wednesday after the injured golf world No. 1 withdrew from next week's PGA Tour event, the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
His inability to defend his title in Akron, Ohio, not only raised doubts about his chances of playing in the final Major of the year, which he had won for the second time last August, but it also put his top ranking up for grabs.
Jordan Spieth, the winner of the season's first two Majors, could replace the Northern Irishman at the top of the world rankings if the American wins the Aug 6-9 World Golf Championships event.
It was at the Firestone Country Club where McIlroy became the world No. 1 last year.
But he has been out of action since he ruptured a ligament in his left ankle while playing football with friends on July 4.
Medical experts suggested that McIlroy could face three months on the sidelines.
The golfer missed the defence of his British Open title two weeks ago at St Andrews.
"Unfortunately, I will not be defending my World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational title," the 26-year-old said in a statement on Wednesday.
"Best of luck to all the competitors and I look forward to returning in 2016."
The US PGA Championship takes place at Whistling Straits the following week.
McIlroy has spent time in mainland Europe, completing outdoor warm-weather recuperation work under the close watch of his personal trainer, Dr Steve McGregor.
However, the exact timeline for the golfer's return to competition remains unknown.
It is as much in the hands of doctors as McIlroy himself, with the FedExCup play-offs - the series of four golf tournaments that run from Aug 27 to Sept 27 - perhaps the most realistic target.
McIlroy is, at least, back hitting golf shots.
Golfing fans, let alone the players themselves, have been frustrated by an inability to watch him and Spieth go head-to-head this summer.
Spieth already has set his sights firmly on Whistling Straits.
"I don't know how many guys have done three Majors in a year," said the 22-year-old. "I'm sure there's only been a few. So that would be the next goal as far as the history goes." THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS