McIlroy healthy, confident entering PGA defense
August 12, 2015
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
- Rory McIlroy hits a practice shot as he prepares to defend his PGA Championship title. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
SHEBOYGAN, Wis. -- Rory McIlroy’s Twitter bio sums it up best: “I hit a little white ball around a field sometimes.”
Despite suffering an ankle injury in a friendly soccer game with friends that caused him to miss more than a month of action, including The Open Championship and World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational, McIlroy isn’t going to change his ways anytime soon.
“I might take some precautionary measures next time. … maybe wear ankle braces on both ankles,” he said. “But apart from that, I'm not going to stop doing what I do. I enjoy that part of my life, I enjoy having that normality in my life, something that I've done since I was a kid and I won't stop doing that, no.”
When McIlroy tees it up Thursday at Whistling Straits to defend his PGA Championship, it will be his first competitive round in 53 days. His bigger concern was if there would be any swelling after a nine-hour flight from Portugal.
“It was nice to get off the plane, move around a little bit,” he said. “I've been using a couple of machines to compress it and ice it. … When I got off the flight I was good to go.”
In the weeks since rupturing a ligament in his left ankle, McIlroy walked for “an hour or two” in addition to his rehab. He also chipped and putted in order not to lose his feel before working his way up to full swings.
When he got to Wisconsin, he played 18 holes Saturday and another 18 Sunday with nine more on Monday, just four holes Tuesday (the pace was apparently too slow) and nine more on Wednesday. He also went for a 20-minute run Wednesday morning.
“It's just about trying to strengthen the ankle and maintain as much integrity in it as possible,” he said. “So for the rest of my career it's going to be a matter of maybe doing a few extra single leg stuff in the gym and rubber cushion stuff just to maintain the integrity of the ankle, but it's really not anything to be concerned about in the long-term.”
What kind of shape the world No. 1's game will be in is another question.
Though McIlroy has been practicing for the last three weeks, he hasn’t played tournament golf since the final round of the U.S. Open. He wanted to come back last week at Firestone but was convinced by his trainer that playing and walking 72 holes off the radar in Portugal was the wiser route.
“That was basically like my fitness test,” McIlroy said. “Four days in a row, 72 holes, playing with no pain, no swelling, no anything like that. Then we knew that, OK, you're ready to go. And if I hadn't have passed that test, I wouldn't have been here. ... Once I was able to complete that then I knew it was the right decision to get on the plane and come here.”
More certain are McIlroy’s own expectations, despite the long layoff.
“I feel like I'm playing well; hitting it well on the range,” he said. “I've taken that onto the course in practice rounds and from there it's being able to take it from there into tournament play with a card in your hand.
“But I expect to play well. I don't see any reason why I can't bring the sort of form that I've shown in practice rounds and on the range to the tee on Thursday afternoon.”
As for his time away from the game, McIlroy thought he would miss golf more than he did.
He watched The Open Championship on television and was eager to get back. He also gained a larger perspective.
“When you're playing week in, week out and you're thinking about winning these tournaments, you get so wrapped up in what you're doing and your own little life and your own little bubble,” he said. “Sometimes you forget there's a bigger wider world out there.”
That apparently includes enjoying it.
“Any time I go back home it's one of the things that I regularly do with my friends is play football,” he said. “I enjoy it. We all enjoy it. And it's unfortunate that it happened. It can happen walking off a tee box. It can happen falling off a curb on the side of the street. It can happen doing anything. And unfortunately, my foot just got stuck on the turf and went over on it. And I was out for a few weeks.
“It could have required surgery. Luckily, that wasn't the case. And I've done a lot of rehab and a lot of hard work to get back as quickly as I could. I was always going to do that. I wasn't trying to focus on any one event to try and get back for, I just wanted to try and get back as quickly as possible and it just so happened that this is the event that I felt a hundred percent ready to come back and play.”