McIlroy contemplating rapid return for US PGA?

Sheboygan County Memorial Airport

Reports that Rory McIlroy could be contemplating a US PGA practice round at Whistling Straits on Saturday — 35 days after suffering what he said was a "total rupture of left ATFL (ankle ligament) and associated joint capsule damage in a soccer kickabout with friends" — suggests he has made a very rapid recovery.

As Paul McGinley said when he heard about the injury: "I'd like to find out a little bit more because sometimes these injuries can settle down very quickly."

What McIlroy suffered was a Grade III injury to his ankle and as Robert Arciero, the president of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, told The Washington Post in an e-mail shortly after Mcilroy made the news public on social media: “It is amazing how quickly someone can recover from this injury."

Arciero advised against trying to play in The Open and McIlroy did not defend his title. He also announced last week that he would not be defending the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational this week. 

Other medial experts have expressed the view that playing less than six weeks after the injury is a risk. Others have said it could take 12 weeks to heal. 

Playing so soon is a risk. Is it a risk that McIlroy's prepared to take? 

With a 20-year career ahead of him, the answer would logically appear to be 'no'. But McIlroy, if the Reuters sources are correct, is obviously feeling better physically lending credence to unconfirmed reports that the 26-year old Co Down man was seen hitting balls at Quinta do Lago's driving range in Portugal just last week.

Given that he said shortly after the injury that "after much consideration" he had decided not to defend The Open and it's possible that the injury is not as bad as first feared or there would have been zero discussion about going to the Home of Golf

"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," McIlroy wrote on Instagram on July 8, four days after the injury.

McIlroy’s assistant, Sean O’Flaherty, said at St Andrews nearly three weeks ago that the world No 1 was in good spirits and didn't need months to be 100 percent competitive once fit.

O'Flaherty said: “Will he be hitting balls in a month? Don’t know. Will he be hitting balls in six weeks? Don’t know. Will he be hitting balls in three months? I don’t know. 

“I am not a doctor. All I know is that until he can have the relative movement, he won’t be hitting balls.... 

"100 percent fit is 100 percent fit. But Rory always starts the year in Abu Dhabi and he starts very well and generally does about five or six days to get ready. He doesn’t need that much leeway. A lot of guys need months. He doesn’t need months to get sharp.”

Asked if McIlroy fans should buy their tickets for the US PGA, O'Flaherty joked: “All I can say is definitely buy your tickets for the Race to Dubai. He’ll definitely be back before then.”

According to Reuters, O'Flaherty did not immediately respond to queries on the practice round booking.

Given the extent of the hype surrounding McIlroy's recently released video game, keeping him at the front of the news cycle is possibly a good thing for sales.

McIlroy will not want for good advice and his trainer, Dr Steve McGregor, knows all about the perils of coming back too soon from serious injury.

Lee Westwood ruptured the plantris muscle in his right leg injury during the French Open when he was world No 1 in 2010 and while he came back two weeks later to finish second in The Open at St Andrews, he played the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and was forced to withdraw after just two rounds.

As a result of the injury, he was unable to practice properly for the rest of the year, even though he was highly competitive in the four events he did manage to finish.

"I know if you're going to play well and contend for tournaments, you have to be practicing hard, and no matter who you are, you need to be pretty much on the top of your game," Westwood said almost a year after his injury.

"To do that you have to be able to go home away from tournaments and work constantly on your game, really, be able to practice."

Westwood was under the care of McGregor at the time and he missed another month of 2010 when he aggravated his injury during the 2010 Alfred Dunhill Links.

“Steve said it wouldn’t be right for six months," he said in Scotland that week. "I don’t want to be stupid, that’s the problem. I made a mistake going to the Bridgestone.”

McIlroy is in danger of losing his world No 1 ranking to reigning Masters and US Open champion Jordan Spieth. It's probably a small price to pay.