By: Alan Payton
The golf world got a big surprise early this week when it was revealed that world No. 1 Rory McIlroy, the defending Open Championship and PGA Championship winner from Northern Ireland, had suffered a torn ankle ligament while playing a bit of soccer with his pals. McIlroy immediately withdrew from this week’s Scottish Open on the European Tour but held out hope of defending his title next week at St. Andrews. However, McIlroy officially pulled out of the tournament on Wednesday and his PGA Championship status is very much in question as well.
McIlroy’s Return Date Now Big Question
“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,” McIlroy posted on his Instagram account. The Open Championship is McIlroy’s favorite tournament. When it was last held at St. Andrews, in 2010, he posted rounds of 63-80-69-68 at the Old Course. He chance of winning was undone by heavy winds in the second round, though he still shared third place.
McIlroy will be the first player not to defend his Open title since Ben Hogan in 1954. Hogan, nearly killed in an automobile accident in 1949, won the only Open Championship he played in at Carnoustie in 1953. McIlroy, who had been the 6.00 favorite to win the Open Championship before the injury was revealed, was replaced in the field by Russell Knox, who grew up in Scotland and will be making his Open debut.
Spieth’s Grand Slam Chances Helped
Now it’s American Jordan Spieth, the world No. 2, who is the 5.50 favorite at the Open Championship. He had been listed just behind McIlroy on the original odds. This McIlroy injury would certainly seem to improve Spieth’s chances of becoming the first player to ever win the Masters, U.S. Open, Open Championship and PGA Championship in the same year — a calendar-year Grand Slam. It’s still a huge long shot.
Spieth is playing this week at the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic in Illinois, which is where he got his first Tour win in 2013. It’s interesting that Spieth is doing so as, assuming he makes the cut, he would have only about two-and-a-half days at St. Andrews to prepare after flying over early Monday morning. McIlroy could lose his cherished No. 1 ranking as well. With a Top-6 finish at the John Deere and a win at the Open Championship, Spieth would ascend to No. 1 in the world for the first time.
American Dustin Johnson, looking for his first major title after choking away the U.S. Open last month at Chambers Bay with a three-putt on the 72nd hole, is the 13.0 second-favorite, followed by England’s Justin Rose (17.0) and Aussie Adam Scott (19.0). Tiger Woods, looking for his first major title since the 2008 U.S. Open, is at 21.0