Rory McIlroy officially pulls out of the Open Championship
By Stephanie Wei under Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy announced via Instagram on Wednesday that he would not be able to defend his title at next week’s Open Championship at St Andrews. Earlier in the week, McIlroy revealed that he had ruptured a ligament in his left ankle while playing soccer with some friends last Saturday, posting a picture of himself in a walking boot and crutches.

For anyone who has ever had an ankle injury, McIlroy’s decision to withdraw from the Open comes as no surprise — it takes longer than you think to heal and it’s especially damaging as a golfer when it’s the left one that’s hurt (since you swing through and transfer your weight on your downswing to that side if you’re right-handed).

I dealt with a similar injury in college and had to wear the same kind of boot and use crutches for at least a month. I didn’t take enough time rehabbing it and probably returned to competition too early. As a result, I’ve paid the price ever since. For longtime readers, you know that I have a penchant for sprained ankles and my left one gives out just randomly when I’m walking on a flat surface, causing it to get re-injured quite frequently.

But I digress.

McIlroy posted a picture on Instagram of his left foot and ankle wrapped up in what appears to be a giant ice pack. In the backdrop, there’s a big screen TV that’s tuned into Wimbledon and the match with Scotland’s Andy Murray, along with the Claret Jug to the right of it. The text accompanying the photo read:

After much consideration, I have decided not to play in the Open Championship at St. Andrews. 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% healthy and 100% competitive. Thank you for all your support and best wishes. I hope to be back on the course as soon as I can…. In the mean time, come on Andy!!!

McIlroy is making a shrewd decision as he could injure his ankle even more, which could hinder him further in the long-term. However, he’s surely extremely disappointed that he won’t be able to defend his title at St Andrews, where he finished T3 — despite shooting 80 in the second round in inclement conditions (arguably unplayable) — when the Open was last held at the Home of Golf in 2010. It is also rather unfortunate that the golfing world won’t get to see him pitted against Jordan Spieth, who, of course, won the first two majors of the season.

The Open released a statement via Twitter: “We are naturally very disappointed that Rory will be unable to defend his title at St. Andrews next week. Rory will play in many more Open Championships and our primary concern is for his complete recovery. Everyone associated with the Open wishes Rory the very best as he looks to return to full fitness.”

The last player who did not defend his Open Championship title was Ben Hogan in 1954 after he won in his sole appearance at the world’s oldest major at Carnoustie in 1953. 


Now, the question is when the world no. 1 will be healthy enough to return to practice, save competition. McIlroy’s next scheduled start is the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, where he would also be defending his title, in August. Then, the following week, he’s supposed to defend yet another title at the PGA Championship, which will be held at Whistling Straits, where McIlroy placed T3, one shot out of the playoff between Martin Kaymer and Bubba Watson, when the event was last played there in 2010.

Personally, I’d be surprised to see McIlroy return to competitive golf this summer. As I mentioned above, ankle injuries take longer to heal than you would expect. Don’t just take it from me, but European Tour player Richie Ramsay, who endured a similar injury, also weighed in on McIlroy’s situation.

Yep, exactly. Major bummer for McIlroy.

Meanwhile, Rory’s fellow tour players have been bombarded with questions about his injury and they’ve unanimously agreed that it wasn’t foolhardy of him to have accidentally injured himself while playing a friendly game of soccer with friends.

Let’s see what the guys at the Scottish Open have had to say.

*Phil Mickelson: “I can’t talk about that for the simple reason I did it myself. ’94, I snapped my finger before the Masters skiing, and I said then, and I feel the same way now, you can’t live your life in fear. You have to enjoy the moment. I didn’t feel like anything he was doing was unnecessary risk. He was just playing around and accidents happen. People get hurt taking a shower and doing normal day-to-day things. You can’t stop living your life. It’s unfortunate that it happened. Hopefully he’ll heal soon and be back at it. If he can’t play next week, certainly by the PGA I would hope. I don’t know the specifics of that particular injury.”

*Matt Kuchar: “I’m not familiar with exactly what it is that happened to him. Never fun to miss any tournament, particularly be tough if he had to miss the British Open. But I don’t think you can stop living your life. You can’t form a bubble around yourself. It’s not as if — you know, you can walk down to the coffee shop and twist an ankle on your way down to the coffee shop. You can’t protect everything. And so I don’t think you stop doing what you’ve always done to this point. So it’s too bad, but I don’t want to say he made a terrible decision in doing what he did. It’s just bad luck and those things happen.”

*Justin Rose: “I say live your life, but I do try to stay away from dangerous stuff, too. But a game of football, that’s one of those innocuous — would I go skiing? No, I wouldn’t. Would I go waterskiing. No, probably not. But a kickaround with your mates, one of those ones — would I play tennis? Yeah, I would. So you could probably just as easy roll your ankle playing tennis as you could playing football. Yeah, it’s a tough break for him obviously especially this time of year.”

*Rickie Fowler: “I haven’t spoken to him yet, but it is unfortunate. I’m (under) the same impression, that you have to live, you can’t be too cautious. It is unfortunate and hopefully he’s back well soon…I didn’t grow up playing football. Soccer is not as big of a sport in the US, but I grew up with my fair share of action sports. That’s something that I don’t do as much now but I don’t stay away from completely. I still like to live and have a little bit of fun.”

*Marc Warren: “I think it’s just another side of Rory McIlroy’s life and what a normal person he is. That’s what the appealing thing is about him. As incredible as he is in golf and as big a superstar as he is, he’s still a normal guy at the end of the day doing normal things and going around, having a kickabout with his mates but unfortunately getting injured — inaudible — what is a job at the end of the day. It’s great to see him doing normal things as well as being a golfer.”