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Clarke says Rory out until 2016, then says was joking

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ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – During a golf writers’ dinner on Tuesday night Darren Clarke suggested that the ankle injury that led to Rory McIlroy to withdrawing from this week’s Open Championship may take longer to heal than some expected.

“When Rory comes back next year ... I didn’t say,” Clarke said.

On Wednesday Clarke clarified his comments, telling reporters that he was just joking and a member of McIlroy’s management team, Sean O'Flaherty, confirmed to that no timetable has been set for the world No. 1’s return.

McIlroy, 26, ruptured his anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL) on July 4 playing soccer with friends and was also forced to withdraw from last week’s Scottish Open.

“I’m taking a long term view of this injury and, although rehab is progressing well, I want to come back to tournament play when I feel 100 percent healthy and 100 percent competitive,” McIlroy posted on Instagram last week.

O'Flaherty confirmed on Wednesday that McIlroy is making progress recovering from the injury and also said surgery to repair the torn ligament was never considered.