Rory McIlroy will struggle to play at final Major, let alone The Open
One of Northern Ireland's most respected sporting physiotherapists believes Rory McIlroy may struggle to play at the final golf major of the year in August, let alone next week's Open Championship at St Andrews.
McIlroy suffered a total rupture of an ankle ligament in his left foot playing football with friends at the weekend and while he has not yet ruled himself out of the Open, the expert opinion is that he won't be teeing it up next Thursday to defend his title.
There are also doubts about whether he'll play at Whistling Straits in America from August 13-16 in the US PGA Championship, which he won so impressively last year to take his career major tally to four.
Yesterday McIlroy posted a picture on Instagram, showing him on crutches and wearing a protective boot on his left foot. Further scans will take place, though he has already withdrawn from this week's Scottish Open tournament.
Former Team Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games physio Eilish Rutherford, a big admirer of the Holywood superstar, is certain that McIlroy's advisers will take no risks.
"With the injury being a total rupture you are talking about it taking around six weeks to heal," said Eilish, chair of the Mary Peters Trust.
"Rory will be getting the very best attention and I would imagine the medical people he is working with will already be getting him to do things to speed up the rehabilitation, but I wouldn't have thought he could play in the Open.
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"The Open is next week and with it being a complete rupture I just can't see it. If it was a bad strain that would be different, but the diagnosis here is a complete rupture.
2His ankle will be quite swollen and when that happens, experts will say to scan it again in a few days, so everyone will have a clearer picture then."
Asked about the possibility of any long-lasting damage to McIlroy, Eilish said: "The fact that Rory's fitness levels are good will mean that the injury will heal just fine and the care that he will receive at this time will be the best you can get.
"The timing of this injury is dreadful with the Open just around the corner and obviously Rory would loved to have defended his title, but he is far better taking time off to recover.
"If he tried to come back too quickly that is when he could do himself more long-term damage. I am sure his medical people will enforce that and he will be warned not to take any risks. He is only 26 so he has plenty of time to win many more Majors.
"Unlike other sports Rory may not have to run on the ankle when he is playing but over the course of a tournament he plays four rounds and practices before then so there is a lot of walking involved.
"Golf courses are uneven, so it is not a smooth walk. Then if you end up in a bunker your stance could be uneven which would be very testing for him. Also there is his swing to consider and the transfer of his weight would put stress on the ankle as well."