McIl­roy to miss Bri­tish Open

World’s No. 1 player and de­fend­ing tour­na­ment cham­pion out with rup­tured lig­a­ment in left an­kle

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS - BY DOUG FER­GU­SON

The photo Rory McIl­roy posted to In­sta­gram on Wed­nes­day shows his feet up, a black air cast around his left an­kle, as he watches Wim­ble­don on tele­vi­sion. The claret jug was po­si­tioned be­neath the screen.

When it comes to a Grand Slam cham­pi­onship in his own sport, the world’s No. 1 golfer will be re­duced to watch­ing this year.

Two days af­ter the stun­ning news that he rup­tured a lig­a­ment in his left an­kle, McIl­roy pulled out of the Bri­tish Open at St. An­drews, the first time in 61 years that the de­fend­ing cham­pion will not be in the field.

He in­jured his an­kle over the week­end play­ing soc­cer with friends in North­ern Ire­land. McIl­roy held out hope he could still make it to St. An­drews next week, but he de­cided it was not worth risk­ing a full re­cov­ery.

“Af­ter much con­sid­er­a­tion, I have de­cided not to play in the Open Cham­pi­onship at St. An­drews,” McIl­roy said on his In­sta­gram post.

“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.”

Ben Ho­gan in 1954 was the last Bri­tish Open cham­pion who did not de­fend. Ho­gan, who was nearly killed in an au­to­mo­bile ac­ci­dent in 1949, won the only Bri­tish Open he played in 1953 at Carnoustie.

“We are nat­u­rally very dis­ap­pointed that Rory will be un­able to de­fend his ti­tle at St. An­drews next week,” the R&A said in a state­ment. “Rory will play in many more Open Cham­pi­onships and our pri­mary con- cern is for his com­plete re­cov­ery.”

He was re­placed in the field by Rus­sell Knox, who grew up in In­ver­ness in the north of Scot­land and will be mak­ing his Open de­but.

Though it wasn’t a big sur­prise that he with­drew — not af­ter the photo Mon­day of McIl­roy on crutches — it was no less jar­ring that golf ’s best player would not be at the home of golf to de­fend his ti­tle.

His ab­sence makes Jor­dan Spi­eth the favourite at St. An­drews in his quest for the Grand Slam. Spi­eth is only the fourth player since 1960 to have won the Mas­ters and the U.S. Open in the same year.

“It’s hugely dis­ap­point­ing, es­pe­cially with him and Jor­dan and ev­ery­thing that’s go­ing on,” Graeme McDow­ell said from the Scot­tish Open.

“It was look­ing to be a re­ally ex­cit­ing Open for all in­volved. I’m sure he’s re­ally dis­ap­pointed. ... No one would love to stop Jor­dan in his tracks next week more than Rory. With the fun ri­valry go­ing on and ev­ery­thing, he’s go­ing to be gut­ted. I saw the golf course last Satur­day. I be­lieved that Rory was rightly a favourite. I thought he’d get it done around there.”

Still to be de­ter­mined is how long the an­kle in­jury keeps McIl­roy out of golf.

He also is the de­fend­ing cham­pion in the Bridge­stone In­vi­ta­tional at Fire­stone on Aug. 6-9, and the PGA Cham­pi­onship the fol­low­ing week at Whistling Straits. McIl­roy fin­ished one shot out of a play­off when the PGA Cham­pi­onship was last held there in 2010.

“We want him back. Ev­ery­body does,” Spi­eth said Tues­day at the John Deere Clas­sic. “It’s un­lucky, it’s un­for­tu­nate, and I’m sure he’s tak­ing it harder on him­self than any­body else.

“But I don’t think he did any­thing wrong, it was just an un­for­tu­nate sit­u­a­tion. And hope­fully, he re­bounds quickly and gets back right to where he was.”

Spi­eth will have a chance to re­place McIl­roy at No. 1 in the world with a good fin­ish at the John Deere and a vic­tory at St. An­drews.

Tiger Woods is the only other No. 1 player to miss a ma­jor cham­pi­onship — the Bri­tish Open and PGA Cham­pi­onship in 2008 re­cov­er­ing from re­con­struc­tive knee surgery, and the Mas­ters last year when he had surgery on his back.

AP PHOTO

In this Sun­day, July 20, 2014, file photo, Rory McIl­roy of North­ern Ire­land holds up the Claret Jug tro­phy af­ter win­ning the Bri­tish Open Golf cham­pi­onship at the Royal Liver­pool golf club in Hoy­lake, Eng­land.

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