For the first time in 61 years, the defending champion of the British Open will not be playing in the event.
And it should come as no surprise.
Rory McIlroy ruptured a ligament in his left ankle while playing soccer with friends this past weekend. It is unknown when he will return to golf.
“The injury that he has sustained for a golfer is devastating,” Golfweek Magazine senior writer David Dusek said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the bench. “Because that’s his front foot when he lines up. That means that as he’s swinging and trying to get all that velocity and his power into his swing and transfer it to the ball, he’s got to load up onto that foot, twist his body, spot up and twist around it. And if your left ankle is not stable – if your left foot has got a problem with it – you cannot do that.
“He’s going to get the best rehab and the best medical care he can get,” Dusek continued, “(but) there was no way he was going to play at St. Andrews. I’m wondering if the PGA Championship in August in about four weeks . . . is going to be off the table fairly soon. It’s going to be very difficult for him to come back off of this injury.”
McIlroy is the first defending champion to miss the British Open since Ben Hogan in 1954. The folks at St. Andrews – and pretty much everyone in golf – must be devastated that the tournament will take place without rock star Rory.
“Well, we were looking forward to hopefully getting a real head-to-head duel with Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth,” Dusek said. “The winner of the Masters, the winner of the U.S. Open, Rory sitting at No. 1 in the world rankings – everything was set for what we had wanted: the duel on the most famous golf course on the planet. And we’re not going to get that this year.”
The question now is, will casual fans still tune in to watch? Golf has been searching for its next star for several years, and McIlroy – along with Spieth – are the game’s best bets to ascend to that status. McIlroy/Spieth may not be Woods/Mickelson just yet, but it’s getting there.
Only now it may have to wait. How will that affect ratings?
“What I would say, the television ratings, they may go down,” Dusek said. “But if Jordan Spieth is in contention into the weekend, the TV (people) and the sponsors and all those people will be thrilled. There are some other players who could potentially fill that void. Obviously the chief among them is going to be Jordan Spieth. If Jordan Spieth is playing well, that’s going to be great. Going for three legs of the grand slam would be absolutely amazing, especially at that venue. I think if there’s any place that can withstand Rory’s withdraw, St. Andrews is one of them and Augusta National would be the other.”