Rory McIlroy has found an unlikely ally in his decision to cut back his presence on the European Tour next year – Colin Montgomerie.
It may come as a surprise that a former seven-time European Tour order of merit winner is supportive of a decision that would see a top player like McIlroy reduce his playing time in Europe, but as far as Monty is concerned, the Northern Irishman has made the right move.
McIlroy has come under fire for revealing his intention to play more on the PGA Tour, but Montgomerie agrees with McIlroy’s reasoning, which is all about putting himself in the best possible position to win more majors.
That’s because he believes McIlroy is of more value to the European Tour if he keeps winning major trophies – something he hasn’t been able to do since 2014.
“He’s come in for criticism from some parts,” Montgomerie said while attending a recent golf clinic at Edinburgh’s Braid Hills Golf Centre.
“But we are self-employed and Rory feels the best way for him to progress and win majors is in that environment in America where there are three majors.
“We’ll see if that decision bears fruit. The European Tour will be disappointed, we all are, because he and Justin Rose are the biggest draws. But we only come together every 104 weeks.
“If Rory goes and wins a couple more majors and Justin too, Europe’s on a bit of a high again and the other players benefit from their success.
“So Mr Average European Tour player is hoping Rory does very well.
“Although the rules say you can’t be Ryder Cup captain now unless you’re a European Tour member, he’s probably hoping that in 20 years time that rule might have changed.
“But I don’t think he’s interested in captaincy right now. He’s interested in winning as many majors as he can. “The captaincy for McIlroy is off the charts time-wise and that’s understandable. It’s good for the European Tour when our guys are winning majors.
“Faldo’s majors were great for the tour, so were Seve’s – 11 between them. It was a great time. We also had Langer, Woosie and Sandy back in the late 80s and early 90s when we dominated. It’s more sparse now, which makes what Rory does next all the more important.”
Montgomerie also acknowledges the decision is a double-edged sword, as skipping the European Tour’s Desert Swing in order to focus entirely on preparing for the Masters in America will put more pressure on McIlroy to deliver in the year’s first major.
“The whole idea of playing in these non-European events to get the game honed just for Augusta puts the pressure right on himself,” said Monty.
“But every time he goes to Augusta there will be that pressure.
“Greg Norman had it, trying to win at Augusta. He couldn’t do it from six shots ahead.
“Rory was four ahead and couldn’t do it. So the more he goes there and doesn’t do it, and the more intensive the preparation, God you’re under pressure.
“Sometimes it’s better to just turn up on a Wednesday morning and go for it, you know?
“It might work. Don’t get me wrong, it might. But it might not.
“The Augusta thing is huge for him. After he didn’t win this year, it just gets difficult to get up again – even for the US Open because he’s won that before.
“It’s a big deal to win all four majors. It was a big deal for me to finish second in all four!”
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