WORLD number one Rory McIlroy will not defend his WGC-Bridgestone Invitational title next week, tournament organisers have announced.
And that increases the likelihood that the four-time major winner will also be unable to defend the following week’s US PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.
McIlroy suffered a “total rupture” of the anterior talofibular ligament in his left ankle while playing football with friends on July 4 and was forced to miss the Scottish Open and the defence of his Open title at St Andrews.
Medical experts suggested the Northern Irishman could face three months on the sidelines and the 26-year-old confirmed on Wednesday that he would not be able to compete at Firestone Country Club in Akron from August 6-9.
“Unfortunately, I will not be defending my World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational title,” McIlroy said in a statement from tournament organisers. “Best of luck to all the competitors and I look forward to returning to Firestone in 2016.”
McIlroy won the Open, Bridgestone Invitational and US PGA in consecutive appearances last summer, his wire-to-wire victory at Hoylake meaning he needs to win the Masters at Augusta National to complete a career grand slam.
Announcing his decision to withdraw from the Open earlier this month, McIlroy said he was taking a “long-term view” of the injury and would not return to action until he felt “100 per cent healthy and 100 per cent competitive”.
Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke suggested that meant McIlroy, who could soon be overtaken in the world rankings by Jordan Spieth, would not be back until “early next year” as he accepted an award on his fellow Northern Irishman’s behalf at the Old Course.
However, Clarke later insisted his comment was meant as a joke and a spokesman for McIlroy told Press Association Sport: ‘’There was no basis for Darren’s comments. Rory’s rehabilitation is progressing well but his return date is not yet known.’’
Tournament officials also announced that four-time PGA Tour winner Chris Kirk will not compete in Akron after failing to recover from the broken hand he suffered while playing with his children before the Open.