With Rory McIlroy sending not-so-subtle messages via social media that he is ready to return to golf at next week’s PGA Championship, at least one former PGA Tour player who has dealt with chronic injuries cautioned the world No. 1 should about making his first appearance after rupturing his ankle at the hilly Whistling Straits venue.
Notah Begay III, now an analyst with Golf Channel and close friend with the oft-injured Tiger Woods, sounded a warning about what could happen if McIlroy came back too quickly from medical problems.
"With regard to the injury, having dealt with it myself and having seen Tiger deal with just the various injuries that he’s had, it might be a bad idea for McIlroy to even come back, because you can’t hold back those competitive fires," Begay said during a Wednesday conference call to promote the PGA at Whistling Straits "You get out there and your body wants to go and your mind knows what to do, but man, if you’re not 100 percent, you risk the rest of the season or possibly hurting something else."
As the golf community awaited an expected Thursday update from Team Rory about whether their man can defend his PGA title, McIlroy offered rather graphic evidence as to why he was unable to do so at the British Open and this week’s WGC tilt at Firestone.
McIlroy, who last month ruptured ankle ligaments during a friendly game of soccer, shared with his Instagram followers the progress he had made since then:
The photos followed quickly a Wednesday clip in which McIlroy undertakes a robust workout that involved putting weight on the injured foot as he swung a medicine ball. It seemed to hint that the four-time major champ was ready to return to action at Whistling Straits.
Then came another Instagram video on Thursday of McIlroy driving a golf ball. While it’s unclear when the video was recorded, he sports support tape around his left ankle and appears to suffer no discomfort in his follow-through.
All of which led Rory watchers to conclude that a return to competition was near -- perhaps as soon as next week in Wisconsin. Indeed, JamesCorrigan reported on Thursday that "an insider" confided that all that stood between McIlroy and a commitment to play the PGA was the okay from his medical staff.
Starting to get the feeling that Rory McIlroy is trying to tell us something...— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelESPN) August 6, 2015
Even if McIlroy were to receive the go-ahead from his doctors, Begay worried that Whistling Straits posed serious issues for the recovering McIlroy.
"I firmly believe, having dealt with injury -- and a lot of people hadn’t really talked about this -- but it’s a pretty hilly golf course," said the four-time tour winner, whose nagging back problems forced him into an early retirement. "There’s a lot of up and down, and when you’re dealing with ligaments in that ankle, even if he is 80, 90 percent, I don’t think he’s going to be 80, 90 percent by Saturday or Sunday."
Begay was doubtful about McIlroy’s ability just to get around the rugged terrain.
"Even if his game is intact," he said, "I just don’t know that the physical part of his ankle is going to hold up for the duration of 72 holes over a pretty demanding golf course with regard to something as simple as walking," Begay said.