LONDON (Reuters) - World number one Rory McIlroy is facing a real struggle to be fit for next week's British Open at St Andrews after rupturing ligaments in his left ankle, according to former European Tour physio Jonathan Shrewsbury.
Shrewsbury told Reuters in a telephone interview on Monday the normal recovery time was 12 weeks for the injury that the 26-year-old Northern Irishman sustained while playing football with friends.
"Rory is really up against it to play in the Open," the Englishman explained. "He's going to have to walk around seven or eight miles a day.
"It's hard, a really hard links course, and that's going to take its toll.
"The other thing is the confidence of being able to hit through the ball. As he comes into the follow through he is going to be rolling his ankle over and that is going to pose significant challenges."
Shrewsbury, who worked for the European Tour between 1992-2001, now runs a centre on the outskirts of London helping a range of elite sports professionals.
While he believes McIlroy is unlikely to be fully fit to defend the Claret Jug he won for the first time a year ago, Shrewsbury says the four-times major champion will benefit from having treatment morning, noon and night.
"It's a very, very common injury, many people go through this, from the weekend warrior to elite sports people. It's normally around a 12-week recovery," he added.
"Rory may be a superman on the golf course but he is going to heal pretty much at the same rate as anyone else. The one thing he does have to his advantage is that he has a team who can treat him pretty much around the clock.
"The normal average person can't ice around the clock as Rory can, in order to get the swelling, the bruising and the pain under control," said Shrewsbury.
"He will have a team of people around him who can work really consistently with him and that is going to limit the amount of time he is away from the game."
Shrewsbury, who once helped former major winners Nick Faldo and Mark O'Meara to fight back from injury, said technology may play a key role for McIlroy who published an Instagram photo showing himself on crutches wearing a heavy surgical boot.
"While Rory has an aircast boot on, which is there to stabilise the ankle and give it rest and support, he is able to do other exercise," said the 45-year-old.
"He can still go to the gym, do upper body weights, work on core support. Ten or 15 years ago he would have been put in plaster.
"With one of those boots on they can take it out and treat the injury every couple of hours. It's a massive advantage to him."
Shrewsbury said it would be "absolute nonsense" to criticise McIlroy for getting injured playing football.
"Most of the guys I have worked with over the years, if you threw a football on to the driving range at a European Tour event, quite a few would want to give it a kick around," he added.
"At what point do you wrap him up in cotton wool? They have to blow off some steam, he's a young person. This is such an innocuous thing that has happened. He could have done it stepping off a kerb.
"It's a bit unfair for people to point the finger at Rory and say he should not be doing this. It would be very harsh to criticise him," said Shrewsbury.
"The physios will just pick up the pieces and get him going again as quickly as possible."
Editing by Tony Jimenez