Colin Montgomerie - The pressure may cripple Rory McIlroy
Colin Montgomerie fears the immense weight of expectation on Rory McIlroy's shoulders will be too much for the Irishman to contend with as he sets his sights on winning a first Masters green jacket this week.
World No.1 McIlroy heads into the 2015 US Masters as the red-hot favourite to win the title. Four years ago he blew a chance to claim one of the most coveted prizes in sport after leading on the final round at Augusta before succumbing to last day pressure.
While McIlroy has won four Major titles since that meltdown to confirm his class, Montgomerie fears the pressure he is under this week may mean the 25-year-old will not perform at the peak of his powers, as he spoke to sundayworld.com at an event to promote Sky Sports’ coverage of all-four days of The Masters.
“Could anyone perform at their best under the kind of pressure Rory will be under this week,” questions former Ryder Cup captain Montgomerie, in a chat with sundayworld.com. “People are looking at this as Rory’s Masters, the week he will make history, the moment when he will join the greats of the game.
“He could be come the youngest player to complete a Grand Slam of Majors. The first European to achieve the feat.
"These are momentous moments, incredible opportunities and it is hard to put all that out of your mind when you are the guy from whom so much is expected.
“When he walks onto the first tee in Thursday, he’s under pressure, there’s no question. He’s won the last two majors that have been played, forgetting the career grand slam this could be.
"I mean if he does win the Masters, my God, how big is the US Open going to be? Thinking he could achieve what Tiger Woods did a while back and hold all four Majors at the one time. That would be remarkable.
“So, yeah there’s a lot of pressure on Rory there’s no question, but if Rory plays to his ability, right, he doesn’t have to bother with the leaderboards.
"If Rory can stand on the 72nd green and say to his caddie, without looking at any leaderboards, ‘I’ve played well there, that’s good’. Well then he wins.”
Montgomerie – whose best finish at The Masters was a tie for 8th position back in 1998 – believes McIlroy’s coronation as the greatest European golfer of all-time is inevitable as he believes he will comfortably sail past Nick Faldo’s record of six-Major titles, but he is not convinced he will get his fifth this week.
“Do I think Rory will win at Augusta this week,” ponders Montgomerie. “Put is this way, if he does win, he will have overcome more pressure and expectation than anyone else in the field and that will make his achievement all the more impressive.
“I think to put pressure on anyone, to put expectation on golf, is one of the hardest things to achieve, because it’s just you and the ball out there. So it’s a very difficult thing to put pressure on this. Individual sports are tough when it comes to pressure and we have seen Rory crack before on the last day at Augusta.
“He is a better player now than he was in 2011 and this event, like most he enters these days, is in his hands. I’m sure Rory will win at Augusta it at some stage in his career. Whether that is this week remains to be seen.
“In a way, it might be good for him to take a little bit of pressure off himself, by saying: ‘I’m going to win this one day, I am. I’m going to be the first man from Northern Ireland to do this, but it might not be this week.’
"If Rory can swing the way he was at the US PGA, and also at Royal Hoylake in Liverpool, with the freedom that he has. I think if he can swing the club with freedom he has a good chance of doing it. And the way to do that is to take pressure off himself.
“However, if you look at his results at Augusta they haven’t been obviously what they are in the other three Majors, having won them all. So it is a little bit of pressure, he’s going in there now ranked number one in the world, and for the first time, and I think that brings it’s own pressure.
"I’m not saying that he can’t cope with that, of course he can, but it will not be easy.”
CHECK OUT THE SECOND PART OF OUR INTERVIEW WITH COLIN MONTGOMERIE ON SUNDAYWORLD.COM TOMORROW
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