Colin Montgomerie yesterday questioned Rory McIlroy's build-up for the Open Championship. Does this mean the Ulsterman's honeymoon period is already over or is his Ryder Cup captain simply concerned that the experience might be overwhelming for the US Open champion when he eventually turns up at Royal St George's next week?
Undoubtedly the latter. Montgomerie remains a huge fan of the 22-year-old and declares "he will contend". But he also believes it would have been wiser for McIlroy to play an event in the three-week gap between Congressional and Sandwich.
"I can understand having two out of three weeks off, but I would like to have seen Rory play a competitive tournament between the two majors," Montgomerie said.
Since the eight-shot victory which established him as golf's new superstar, McIlroy has attended a number of sponsors' days, made two trips to Wimbledon and travelled to Hamburg for the world heavyweight title fight. Originally, McIlroy had been due to play in last week's French Open and Montgomerie thinks he should have stuck to that plan or at least entered this week's Scottish Open. Yet Montgomerie is not worried about any rust in McIlroy's game.
"Rory's so natural I don't think there are any fears about his game," said Montgomerie. "But it's the locker room. There will be so many people wanting to congratulate him, wanting to talk to him. That's bloody tiring. Whether it was the French or the Scottish Open he could have got that out of his system, so he could start the Open afresh. Now he's got all that ahead of him and by the time he gets to the first tee, I think he will be mentally tired. But who am I to say?"
After two days' reconnaissance on the Kent links this week, McIlroy will stay away from the course until the Tuesday afternoon – and does not plan to play until Wednesday. Padraig Harrington agreed with Montgomerie in believing McIlory might be in for a hectic time. "Whenever you win and you go to the next tournament there are 155 other players and 155 other caddies who want to say 'well done'," said the three-times major winner. "Everyone will want a conversation. That will be an issue for him."
Montgomerie and Harrington were talking at the launch of the "HSBC Ultimate Open 18" (the duo's choice of the perfect Open course pulled from the nine courses on the current Open roster). They arrive in Inverness today to prepare for this week's Scottish Open, with Montgomerie needing a top-five finish to stand a chance of qualifying for Sandwich. "I haven't missed an Open in 22 years. I'm in the last chance saloon," he said.Reuse content