Rory McIlroy jets in to test injured ankle ahead of astonishing PGA comeback
Rory McIlroy is finally back at a Major, even if he has yet to announce officially that he will play. The world No 1 flew into Whistling Straits last night keeping his scorecards close to his chest.
For the previous few days McIlroy had been dropping hints that he would make his competitive return at the US PGA Championship next week from the ankle injury he suffered during a kickabout with friends the week before the Open.
But with a picture inside a private jet departing from Faro Airport accompanied by symbols which included the US flag, a putting green and a thumbs up, McIlroy made it clear where he was heading. McIlroy has been in Portugal undergoing intensive rehab and posted a video on Thursday of him hitting a driver .
It is believed that McIlroy will today play a practice round at the Wisconsin layout to confirm that his left ankle is up to the task. It is not just a case of McIlroy being able to swing freely. The Pete Dye creation is a hilly course and is a demanding trek but McIlroy is seemingly determined to compete.
Tournament organisers released selected tee times yesterday, and McIlroy has been grouped with the winners of this year's Majors, Jordan Spieth and Zach Johnson, for the first two rounds at Whistling Straits.
McIlroy's Twitter account retweeted the announcement from the PGA of America.
The 26-year-old suffered a "total rupture" of ligaments in his left ankle during a game of football with friends on July 4, ruling him out of the Scottish Open and the defence of his Open and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational titles.
On Wednesday, McIlroy posted a video on his Instagram account in which he was seen balancing on his left leg and twisting and throwing a gym ball to mimic the actions of the golf swing.
Alongside the short video clip, McIlroy wrote: "Working hard every day to come back stronger #dontmindthegrind."
He has also shared photographs of his ankle from four and three weeks ago, saying: "I've come a long way since."
McIlroy will be replaced as world No 1 by Masters and US Open champion Spieth if the 22-year-old American can win his first World Golf Championship title at Firestone Country Club this weekend.
It was at the same event that McIlroy overturned a three-shot deficit to Ryder Cup team-mate Sergio Garcia in the final round 12 months ago to move back to the top of the rankings.
McIlroy's last competitive round was a closing 66 in the US Open at Chambers Bay on June 21. The US PGA gets under way on Thursday.
American Jim Furyk took command of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational yesterday as he looked to make amends for a number of near-misses at Firestone.
Furyk carded a second consecutive 66 in Akron to set the clubhouse target on eight-under par, four clear of Offaly's Shane Lowry who shot up the leaderboard last night with a sparkling 66. Furyk's playing partner Henrik Stenson, Graeme McDowell and first-round leader Danny Lee are a shot further back on three-under.
The 45-year-old Furyk has recorded nine top-10 finishes in the event, including five in a row from its inception in 1999, and memorably lost a seven-hole play-off to Tiger Woods in 2001.
The world No 6 also squandered a one-shot lead with one hole to play in 2012, carding a double bogey from the middle of the 18th fairway to lose out by a shot to Keegan Bradley. Despite a good opening round, Furyk received some tips from his father and coach Mike on Thursday evening and said: "I think I've found a way to get the ball in the hole. I drove the ball better today but I definitely hit my share of poor golf shots, just managed to put them in good spots."
Lowry carded six birdies and two bogeys in his round but yet again found the 18th troublesome, bogeying it for the second day in a row after failing to get up and down from off the green.
Birdies on 11 and 15 had earlier put him within three of Furyk but he still looks well placed for a weekend push.
Graeme McDowell could only add a second round of 71 to his opening 66 as he looked to improve on a poor season which has produced just one top-10 finish.
"I started on the back nine and did not play very well to be honest," McDowell said.
"I didn't hit many fairways and was scrambling and scrambling and hung in there incredibly well. I actually hit it well on the second nine but made a silly six on the second when I was 25 feet away for eagle, putted it up and it came back off the green."
Lee Westwood, Justin Rose and double-Major winner Jordan Spieth were a shot behind McDowell on two-under.
Pádraig Harrington carded a two-over-par 72 to match his opening round, two late bogeys on 14 and 15 not helping his cause. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Live, Sky Sports 4, 5.00pm