McIlroy Tears Ankle: How Physical Issues Have Changed the Face of Golf

The Open Championship was around the corner. Everyone was looking forward to see if Rory McIlroy could defend his championship. Then he posts this on his Facebook page:

Rory McIlroy Injures Ankle

Rory McIlroy Injures Ankle

The result? He won’t be playing the The Open or returning to competitive golf until he is “100% healthy and 100% competitive. It’s a reminder that golf is more of “sport” and less of a “game” than ever. It’s also hard not to draw some comparisons to some of the other famous players who have been injured, and wonder how golf history would look if it weren’t for the various injuries that have taken place over the years.

For example, of all the ways that Tiger Woods has impacted golf, perhaps none is as dramatic as the PGA Tour fitness trailer that is now parked at every tournament. The rigorous workouts Woods required to make such violent swings at the golf ball have done great things in transforming golf into a sport in the public’s eye. The perception that golfers are athletes is what has lured many of the current crop of young stars to the PGA Tour.

These extreme workouts are a brave new world in golf. No one knows the toll such all-out aggressive swinging will take on the body. Golf history has been sprinkled with athletes before. Sam Snead could famously kick the top of a doorframe into his early 80’s, and Gary Player’s workout regimen is legendary. He still completes 1,000 situps and pushups each morning.

However, mostly golf fans have been familiar with stars “rounding” into their thirties and forties with not much loss of effectiveness on the course.

In Golf, Can a Body Be Too Tuned?

The golfer as fine-tuned athlete, however, is still an experiment in the petri dish. The powerful slashing at the golf ball produces crowd-appealing distances and excitement. Does this mean, however, that the modern golf career is destined to resemble other pro athletes who are forced to the sidelines of their sport around the age of 40; or will it allow players to follow the traditional arc onto the Senior Tour and continue cashing checks into their twilight years?

We have already watched Woods’ body begin to break down in his late thirties and now World Number One Rory McIlroy, who slavishly follows Tiger’s affinity for fitness training, has rocked the golf world with his ankle tear on the eve of the Open Championship. Of course, his injury took place on the soccer pitch rather than when blasting a drive off the tee, and may have happened even if McIlroy had never set foot in a gym.

More Injuries, Strange Consequences

There is no denying that injuries and surgeries are becoming more prevalent in the game and have shattered the careers of top players in recent years. David Duval tumbled from Number One to Number One Thousand-something after a back injury. It was an elbow that sent former Masters champion, Mike Weir, essentially out of the game. Plus, there’s no forgetting the strange case of Anthony Kim.

Anthony Kim was the future face of American golf, the Jordan Spieth of his day – a day that was scarcely five years ago. The 23-year Californian was a Ryder Cup hero and had destroyed Augusta National himself with a record 11 birdies in a round. Then, there was a spate of injuries that started with a thumb and then surgery on an Achilles tendon in 2012. AK has not been at a PGA tournament since, and has been reported to not even play golf anymore. Take note, he is not yet 30 years old.

The twist to the story demonstrates how physical issues have truly changed the face of golf. It seems that Kim’s management team took out an insurance policy against a career-ending injury worth a rumored $20 million, tax-free. Gone are the days when Fred Couples would give it a go on the course even when his balky back was acting up.

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