Rory McIlroy is recovering well from the ankle injury which has prevented him from defending his Open title this week, although no date has been set for his return.

Clarke then tried to clear up the matter. Clarke, in McIlroy’s stead accepting his Player of the Year award at the banquet, said the golf world would not see Rory until January, according to Golf Channel’s Tim Rosaforte.

The 2014 champion was forced to withdraw from the event at St Andrews, which begins on Thursday, after rupturing an ankle ligament playing football with friends last week.

Within the message promoting his offer, McIlroy mentioned his feelings on being unable to defend the Claret Jug. Evidence that the four-time major champ sported a less bulky brace on his bum wheel than the he wore in his Instagram announcement last week of his British Open withdrawal sparked speculation that McIlroy could be returning to competition sooner rather than later. “He’s positive and happy and looking forward to working through the process of getting back”, he said. He ruled out all talk of surgery but added that it’s impossible to know exactly when the Holywood star will come back.

Asked if McIlroy fans should buy their tickets for the US PGA, O’Flaherty joked: “All I can say is definitely buy your tickets for the Race to Dubai”.