Rory McIlroy must banish his Augusta demons first if he is to savour Masters glory and complete a career Grand Slam at the tender age of 25.
That’s the message from his former Europe Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie who feels McIlroy, the world number one, could still be scarred by the memories of his Augusta meltdown in 2011 when he blew a four-shot lead in the final round.
McIlroy carded a closing 80 - which famously included a pull-hooked drive at the 10th which sent his ball off the course - to finish joint 15th and 10 shots behind winner Charl Schwartzel, and the four-time major winner has done no better than last year’s tied eighth on his six previous visits to the Masters.
This time the Northern Ireland man starts as strong favourite to complete the full majors set but Montgomerie, while admitting that McIlroy is a sure-fire bet to pass Sir Nick Faldo’s total of six major titles, admits handling the pressure in a top-class field featuring the fit-again Tiger Woods presents a severe test of his temperament.
“I don’t think the task is easy at all, there’s a lot of pressure on Rory,” said Montgomerie who will be at the Masters commentating for Sky Sports.
“You know there’s the odd gremlin there, when he lost that four-shot cushion, and I don’t think he’ll ever stand on that 10th tee with a load of confidence, will he? He can’t after what happened at the demise of the back nine from a few years ago.
“Some players like to go back to a scene - like Bubba Watson, Tiger or Phil Mickelson and love that course - and others, like I did in my prime, are not as confident going back somewhere.
“If you look at Rory’s results at Augusta they obviously haven’t been that of the other three majors, having won them all, so that brings its own pressure.
“But I’m not saying he can’t cope with that because he’s the best player in the world - and I think all 80 competitors in the field would say that.”
Having won the last two Majors - the Open and US PGA titles in an incredible three-week spell last summer - McIlroy stands on the brink of golfing history.
Victory would see him become the sixth player to have won all four major titles after Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Woods and the first European to win a green jacket since Jose Maria Olazabal in 1999.