Monday 20 November 2017

Rory McIlroy poised for PGA return after being paired with Spieth and Johnson for opening rounds

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy

Phil Casey

World number one Rory McIlroy looks increasingly likely to return from injury to defend his US PGA Championship title next week.

Tournament organisers released selected tee times on Friday, 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 has not officially said he will play the year's final major but his Twitter account did retweet the news 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.

However, this week he has given numerous hints via social media that he would be able to return to action, culminating in a post on Friday which appeared to show the inside of a private plane along with various emojis depicting a US flag, a thumbs-up symbol and a golf flag.

The on-board video screen suggested McIlroy was departing from Faro in Portugal, where the four-time major winner was understood to have been practising and the location for Thursday's video of him hitting a driver on the range.

Read more: Rory McIlroy offers biggest hint yet that he will play in the USPGA

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 number one 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 week.

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 August 13.

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