Rory McIlroy's assertion that he would only come back to tournament play when he was "100% healthy and 100% competitive" was clearly premature. Given that the European Tour's new Chief Executive Keith Pelley is allowing him compete for the Race to Dubai's grand prize despite it becoming clear in recent weeks that he will fail to meet the 13 event minimum, he is plainly far from 100 percent healthy.
The tour has even gone as far as to seek medical advice before giving McIlroy a free pass and even that's remarkably candid about the damage the world No 1 could be doing himself by coming back so soon after tearing ankle ligaments in that July 4 kick about with friends.
The European Tour's Chief of Medical staff, Dr Roger Hawkes, said in a European Tour statement:
“From the evidence presented to me, in my view this is a potentially serious and significant injury. There is a risk of permanent instability of the ankle which could seriously affect both his golf swing - you need stability in the left ankle during the follow through – and for walking safely on uneven surfaces.
“Although he played again after a few weeks, he will need close attention for about a year. The suggestion of a reduced schedule and, wherever possible, avoiding back-to-back events is, in my opinion, sensible and important to allow adequate healing and reduce the chance of the complications mentioned which could clearly jeopardise his career."
McIlroy has played just one event since he injured himself, the US PGA, where he finished 17th. He plan is to play the second FedEx Cup event in Boston this week but it remains to be seen if he can "give it a good run in the FedEx Cup", as he planned when he left Whistling Straits, and play back to back events, never mind all three remaining Playoff tournaments.
An order to avoid consecutive events could also have a huge effect on his 2016 schedule, when the calendar is compressed because of the Olympic Games
It appears he will play no more than three more European Tour events before the end of this year, including the season ending DP World Tour Championship.
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!!!
But given that his excuse for failing to meet the minimum event requirements in Europe — he's four short of the 13 required — is the "recuperation and recovery programme which strictly limits the number of weeks in a row he can play," getting 100 percent fit in 40 days was clearly never an option for the world No 1.
By deciding to skip The Barclays, it's possible he did more damage to his ankle at Whistling Straits, as Jason Day hinted on Sunday.
"With Rory missing this week, who knows what happened to his ankle, or if it was something where he really needed to rest it," Day said.
The tour issued a statement on Wednesday explaining that McIlroy, who is currently leading the 2015 Race to Dubai Rankings by almost 400,000 points from Danny Willett, "was poised to comfortably meet the ‘13 tournaments per season’ rule – stipulated under the membership criteria of The European Tour – until an accident ruled him out of a considerable part of the golfing summer."
The 26 year old missed starts in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open, the Open Championship and the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
The tour goes on to say that "will not be able to compete in 13 European Tour tournaments, given his current global commitments and his recuperation and recovery programme which strictly limits the number of weeks in a row he can play."
According to the European Tour, "McIlroy has agreed with Keith Pelley that he will play a minimum of three more tournaments before the end of the year, bringing him to his revised minimum obligation of 12 events."
Keith Pelley said: “These are exceptional circumstances and I have taken this situation and the resulting decision very seriously. I have spent the last two weeks examining every angle and every possible solution and I have spoken with Rory and his team, as well as independent medical advisers and some prominent players.
“After reviewing and discussing all the medical reports and recommendations from orthopaedic surgeon Dr Andrew Adair, physiotherapist Dr Steve McGregor and our Chief of Medical staff Dr Roger Hawkes – while at the same time recognising that Rory is a world golfer with global commitments – I am convinced that he could not commit to any further tournament participation without risking further injury and persistent weakness to the ankle in the future.
“Therefore, after lengthy discussions, I have given him approval to play a minimum of 12 European Tour events this year.”