US PGA hopes fade as McIlroy pulls out of Akron

Rory McIlroy. Picture/Instagram

Any remote hope the PGA of America might have in seeing Rory McIlroy defend his US PGA title at Whistling Straits faded a little more on Wednesday when the world No 1 informed tournament officials that he will not be defending his World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational title in Akron next week.

“Unfortunately, I will not be defending my World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational title,” said McIlroy, who is still recovering from an ankle injury suffered in early July. “Best of luck to all the competitors, and I look forward to returning to Firestone in 2016.”

McIlroy is missing the Bridgestone Invitational for the first time since 2009. In his six previous appearances, he had four top-10 finishes, including his win last year.

McIlroy's assistant, Sean O'Flaherty, was bullish about his employer's chances of playing before the end of the season but the ankle injury the world No 1 says he picked up playing football appears likely to cost him the chance of defending in Wisconsin. 

The Co Down native is in danger of losing his world No 1 ranking to Jordan Spieth, who has has moved to world No 2  thanks to four PGA Tour victories, including two major championship wins this season, and victories at the Hero World Challenge and the Emirates Australian Open to end 2014.

Spieth’s 2014-15 PGA TOUR campaign continues to be one of the best in PGA history with 12 top-10 finishes, eight in the top three. With a victory at the Bridgestone Invitational, Spieth could take over the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking at the same event in which McIlroy become No. 1 in the world with a victory last year.  

According to the PGA Tour:

"Spieth’s incredible season means and equally incredible lead in the FedExCup standings with 3,763 points – nearly doubling his closest competitor in Bubba Watson (2,043 points). Spieth’s FedExCup performance is so dominant that if Watson won the next three events, he would remain in second place behind the 22-year-old."

Now that the top 50 in the OWGR have qualified, below is a list of the 78 players who are now officially eligible to play.

Players can either win at the Quicken Loans National this week or move into the top 50 in the OWGR as of Monday, August 3, to finalize the field. Players have until 5 p.m. ET on Friday, July 31, to officially commit to the Bridgestone Invitational.

Ireland will have three players in the field in Shane Lowry, Graeme McDowell and Pádraig Harrington.