Rory McIlroy's return from injury after just five weeks on the sidelines is a sign of the changing times in the area of sports science and medicine. But the media reaction to the world No 1's first official press conference was also telling in an age when Tiger Woods is now clearly a sideshow and the arrival of Jordan Spieth, a true blue Texas hero, is regarded as a godsend.
McIlroy's press conference, which last almost half an hour, was replete with great detail on how he feared he'd broken his ankle and heard the ligaments "snap".
Perhaps one of the more interesting reactions were in response to McIlroy's revelation that he didn't miss the game as much as he thought he would and that his break had given him some perspective.
Is it odd to think that anyone can become so wrapped up in their work that they become impervious to everything else that's going on in a world of 7,300,000,000 souls.
Christine Brennan in USA Today, was certainly bowled over that McIlroy had the wherewithal to think beyond himself for a moment:
“I honestly thought it was going to be harder than it was,” McIlroy said Wednesday, talking about being gone during a stretch of the summer that would have included his defense of his British Open title. “I thought I was going to miss it more than I did. But if anything, having to sit those tournaments out — especially the Open Championship going back to St. Andrews, which is probably my favorite venue in the world — gave me a huge sense of 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, sometimes you forget there’s a bigger, wider world out there.”
These are not made-up quotes. A 21st century professional athlete really said this.
“No matter whether you win a golf tournament or not, people are going to get up on Monday morning and go to work and do their daily things and honestly not a lot of people care. It’s like, you know, obviously it means a lot to you and it means a lot to people involved in this game and in golf, and in sport in general, I guess, but it just gave me a big sense of perspective that even though it does mean so much to me and so much to a few other people, in the big scheme of things, it’s not life or death. And that’s something that I can bring in with me this week, knowing that, OK, it’s a big deal, but no matter what happens this week, only a very small percentage of the population really care.”
By small percentage of the population, McIlroy might have been more accurate if he had said that only his close family, friends and business associates really care deeply.
And yet, given the standard of interview provided by top sportsmen and women these days, the 26-year old UIstermen is a breath of fresh air in that he strings sensible thoughts together and avoids cliches.
Here's a summary of what he said.
On his excellent record in the PGA:
I think it's usually a fair test of golf, somewhere within 10 to 15-under par usually wins this tournament. So it's not like it prevents the guys from making birdies, but it still penalizes you if you don't hit good shots...
His concerns about his ankle went away after the flight over:
I guess more worried about the flight in terms of the ankle, just to see how -- if it would swell up at all. But luckily it didn't... I've been using a couple of machines to compress it and ice it. So I was able to take advantage of that on the plane as well. So, kept the inflammation down to a minimum. When I got off the flight I was good to go.
On his future as a footballer. Will he give it up now?
Not at all. I might take some precautionary measures next time. Because I rolled my right ankle at the end of 2013. Obviously I did it a little bit worse here to my left, but maybe wear ankle braces on both ankles. 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.
On how it all went down:
I thought I broke it. Because as soon as I went over on it I heard like a snap. Obviously that was the ligament that snapped. And then as soon as I got back -- as well as that, I tore the joint capsule, so that's why it got -- I looked down and 30 seconds later it got the size of a tennis ball, basically because all the fluid came out of the joint capsule, so it just filled up. So there was that and then when I got the scan that night as well it showed that obviously I totally ruptured one ligament and I had a grade two in the other. And if that had been a total rupture in that then that would have required surgery. So luckily that wasn't the case. But I mean it was -- for as injuries go, it could have been worse. I was lucky that I didn't do more damage and thankfully after five weeks of hard work and rehab I'm back playing.
How is he now?
I went for a 20-minute run this morning....
And the future?
It's really not anything to be concerned about in the long-term.
He thinks talk of a rivalry with Spieth is fine. Better than Rory Era and Spieth Era.
I guess as well, it's such, we live in such a world that everything's so reactionary and everything happens so quickly that a year ago after I won this tournament it was the Rory era and then Jordan wins the Masters and it's the Jordan era. And eras last about six months these days instead of 20 years.
He's outscored Jordan Spieth by 23 shots in the eight rounds they've played together. Significant?
I wouldn't put too much importance on that.
Who is the best player in the world?
(Squirming) I mean if you were to go by this year, you would have to say Jordan. I would say if you go over the last two years, I would say it's probably a toss up between Jordan and myself. That's a hard one... it's all a matter of opinion. People are going to place importance on different aspects of the game and if people place more importance on some of the parts of the game that I'm stronger at, then they might say that I am. But if some people place more importance on some of the attributes that he is a little stronger than me then they would say he is. So it's all a matter of opinion at this point.
(Pressed) Your opinion?
(Really squirming) I'll tell you at the end of the week.
On why he didn't come back in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational last week.
We did contemplate maybe trying to do that at the Bridgestone, but doing that in front of guys in the media, the eyes of the world, it probably wasn't a great idea.
On why he got back in five weeks rather than 12. (Pay attention to this answer Tiger Woods!)
It was a six to eight week injury, that's what it was from the very start. But with the advancements of medical science, the advancements of physiotherapy, everything, I mean 10 years ago, someone ruptures an ATFL, they have surgery. Now it's just a program of rehabilitation, trying to get the inflammation down as quickly as you can, get the range of motion back in it, and then gradually strengthen it up. So it was always a six to eight week injury and then it just depends on each individual and how fast they heal. So an average person with a that goes to the physio three times a week and gets it seen to, they will probably take between six and eight weeks. But I had Steve MacGregor who I think is one of the best in the world at what he does. He was with me 24/7 since the injury happened. So, to have his watchful eye over me the entire time, that's why I was able to get back in five weeks instead of six. So okay maybe I was one or two weeks ahead of what I was told at the start, but I don't think that's any surprise, given this day and age and everything that is at our disposal in terms of treatment and machines and everything, so.
On the non-sanctioning of the Bridgestone by the European Tour next year. It's tough for Shane Lowry, isn't it?:
It's a awkward one. Obviously with the Olympics being included in the schedule next year it's made it very difficult for the European Tour on the PGA TOUR to schedule their events...
Shane, I mean, it's obviously great going back to defend a title. I've heard rumors that the French Open is going to count as two tournaments on the European Tour next year for guys that play both tours. They're going to increase the prize fund. Does that mean that the French Open's going to become more attractive to the top players? Probably not. Bridgestone's a great tournament. And whether it's a World Golf Championship or not, they're going to get a very strong field, just because of the golf course and because of the history it has on this side of the pond. But, yeah, I mean I don't think you should blame the European Tour or the PGA TOUR for this one, it's more of the Olympics has been put into the schedule and everyone's had to accommodate because of it.