Rory McIlroy has heightened speculation surrounding his return to action by posting a video which shows him working out in the gym without any apparent discomfort from his injured ankle.
McIlroy has not played since suffering a “total rupture” of ligaments in his left ankle during a game of football with friends on July 4, an injury which ruled him out of the Scottish Open and the defence of his Open and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational titles.
The 26-year-old has yet to say whether he will be able to defend the US PGA Championship next week and on Tuesday his publicist denied reports he had scheduled a practice round at Whistling Straits on Saturday.
However yesterday, 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.”
McIlroy will be replaced as world No 1 by Masters and US Open champion Jordan 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.
Sheffield’s Danny Willett is in action at the Bridgestone for the first time since claiming his third European Tour title in Switzerland 11 days ago.
The 27-year-old has already figured prominently in a World Golf Championship event this year with his run to the semi-finals of the WGC Match Play in San Francisco in the Spring.
Willett tees off in Ohio as the world’s No 24 golfer and the second highest Englishman on the rankings.
It is also the first tournament for Zach Johnson since his Open triumph at St Andrews.
Johnson claimed his second major title by defeating Louis Oosthuizen and Marc Leishman in a play-off at St Andrews last month, despite previously stating the Old Course was his least favourite on the Open rotation.
The 39-year-old also said he dislikes the “contrived” US PGA venue of Whistling Straits, but is a big fan of Firestone Country Club, a venue where he was sixth in 2011 and fourth in 2013.
“I love the golf course,” Johnsaid son. “I don’t like to label or place or prioritise courses, but this is way up there for me. I love what this course demands. I think you’ve got to hit it straight.”