Rory McIlroy: I'm fit and ready to defend my US PGA title
Rory McIlroy is confident his left ankle injury has healed well enough for him to defend his US PGA title at Whistling Straits, Wisconsin this week.
McIlroy practised on the course yesterday and afterwards revealed that he had intended to come back to action this week, irrespective of the tournament.
His only concern now is ring-rustiness as his last competitive round was on June 21 in the US Open at Chambers Bay.
McIlroy injured the ankle on July 4 playing football with friends and missed last month's Open at St Andrews.
He revealed he has been hitting golf balls since July 28, and played four rounds at Quinta do Lago in Portugal last week before flying to America for the US PGA.
"It felt like it was the right time to come (back), regardless of whether it was this week," McIlroy said. "I was ready to go, whether it was this week or whether it was some other tournament.
"It wasn't like I was trying to get back for this. It just so happens that I feel good enough to go."
Asked if he felt he could be 100% competitive by Thursday's opening round, four-time Major champion McIlroy replied: "Definitely."
He said his fitness coach Steve McGregor had held him back from playing to ensure all treatment and recovery protocols were completed.
McIlroy finished his third day of practice on the Whistling Straits course and declared himself ready, willing and able to go into battle when the US PGA tees off on Thursday.
"I was anticipating feeling a bit rusty and a bit out of sorts for the first couple of weeks," he said.
"I started hitting balls on July 28, and it feels good. I've played quite a lot of golf since I started to hit balls again, and it feels good.
"I think the one thing for me was if my short game wasn't sharp but I've been chipping and putting since basically this happened.
"I was putting when I had the (support) boot on. I've kept that part of the game sharp, so everything feels pretty good."
There were no signs of adverse reactions as McIlroy continued his assessment of the challenge facing the field this week.
He was finished his on-course work around 11.00am local time, and afterwards bounded up the steps leading to the exit.
"I've had two really good looks at it, Saturday and yesterday. I played one-ball on Saturday, sort of did my homework on the front nine yesterday, and played one ball on the back nine," he said.
"I did all my homework for the back nine there today. It's all good."
A number of observers, including former Tour pro Notah Begay and Colin Montgomerie, suggested McIlroy is coming back too early for comfort, but the player has full confidence the ankle can stand up to the rigours of tournament play.
"I can go at it as hard as I like. It actually feels better when I go at it as hard as I want, because my left foot sort of spins out of the way whenever I hit the driver anyway," McIlroy responded.
Jordan Spieth is edging closer to the Ulsterman's World No 1 spot and he is aware of the threat.
"Obviously it's important. I've made that clear. It's been a year since I got it back and in saying that I didn't check it this morning. Playing well and winning golf tournaments takes care of the ranking," he said.
"That's what I've always said. It's nice, it's a great position to be in, but playing well, competing in golf tournaments like this, and ultimately winning them is what keeps you there. That's my main focus this week.
McIlroy took time out to watch Shane Lowry's win at Firestone and was delighted for his friend.
"It was fantastic. We played 18 in the morning and came back to the house we're renting and watched it. It was great," he said.
"I texted him last night and said it was a pretty ballsy victory."
The prospect of McIlroy and Lowry playing at the 2016 Rio Olympics together for Ireland is a strong possibility.