Rory McIlroy puts worst foot forward as rivals gear up for The Open
The day before world number one Rory McIlroy could have been leading the field at the St Andrews he was instead nursing his injured ankle - in the children's section of his local health club pool.
The star golfer was spotted yesterday sporting a discreet ankle support as he left the Virgin health club just outside Holywood, where it was reported he was using the pool, undoubtedly to try and hasten his rehabilitation.
The four-time Major winner suffered a total rupture of the anterior talofibular ligament in his left ankle while playing football with friends this month, leading to him missing out on The Open starting today at the 'Home of Golf' in Scotland, where he was due to defend his title.
The 26-year-old is absent from the course where he carded an opening 63 - the lowest round in Open history - in 2010.
The injury has been described by pundits as the biggest disappointment of his career to date.
Customers of the health club were delighted to see Rory relaxing in the children's part of the pool, which is sectioned off from the centre's main pool in an area also featuring a Jacuzzi and steam room.
Staff at the centre declined to comment on their famous member.
Other golfing greats were preparing for tee-off, having expressed their sympathy for the injured McIlroy.
Rory also runs the risk of losing his number one status if US wunderkind Jordan Speith wins the competition.
Sir Nick Faldo said recently he feared Rory may never be the same again.
The English star, a three-time Open winner, including at St Andrews, said the Northern Ireland golfer had only himself to blame, but admitted it would be "tough" missing out on such a top tournament.
Faldo said he had to turn down a skiing holiday with his family for fear of hurting himself after witnessing an accident.
"My kids wanted me to go skiing and I was being tempted to try it, but that incident was right at the bottom of the slope in front of me.
"I said: 'I can't risk it' because they can't necessarily put your wrist or elbow back in the same place.
"That is the problem and it is a tough one for Rory.
"He has to wait until it is 100% better before he can start doing anything and start practising on it."
Faldo said he feared there was no guarantee Rory will be the same golfer again.
"If you injure yourself - can they repair it exactly the same as it was?"
Rory McIlroy injured his ankle on July 4, announcing four days later that he would be unable to defend his Open title. His recovery is reported to be progressing well, though no date has been set for his return. Doubts now surround Rory's chances of defending the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on August 6 and the US PGA championship the following week.