RORY McIlroy has raised the bar in golf to a higher level than Tiger Woods achieved when he dominated the game to rack up 14 majors, according to Colin Montgomerie.
After watching McIlroy win the last two majors – the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool and the USPGA Championship at Valhalla – to reclaim the world No 1 spot, the eight-times European No 1 believes Woods needs to lift his game to a new level after returning from his injury lay-off last week.
“Tiger Woods is going to come back into the frame. Is he going to be able to get back to the levels?” Montgomerie told KICCA, a new social media platform. “Not just to the levels he was but better than that because that’s where Rory McIlroy’s taken the standard of golf to one level beyond to where Tiger was.”
McIlroy will head to Augusta National next April bidding to complete the career “Grand Slam” by winning his first Masters title. Victory in that would then set up the chance for him to make it four majors in a row when the US Open is held at Chambers Bay in June.
“He’s going for three in a row and if he does that, the US Open will be a big event, to see if he can get that grand slam,” added Montgomerie. “If he does win the Masters, wow, that US Open will be a big, big, big do indeed.
“Can he win all four in a year? That’s another question on people’s lips within our game. Can he win all four in a year, never mind two? That means six in a row. Wow, that’ll be something.
“If you’re a betting man, I’m sure there’s a lot of people putting money on it, I’m sure it’s a 100-1 shot but it’s worth a punt. If I was a gambler, which I’m not, I’d put money on that; he’s that dominant, and that good.”
While Montgomerie himself has been dominant on the European Senior Tour this season, the 51-year-old found himself playing catch-up after the opening round of the circuit’s finale, the MCB Tour Championship, in Mauritius.
The double Senior major champion, who is seeking a fifth over-50s victory of the season, is three shots off the lead, held by Englishman Barry Lane, in a share of ninth position after an opening round of 71. Montgomerie reached two-under-par after mixing three birdies and one bogey in his opening 15 holes, but found the water on the par-5 last and finished with a bogey to fall back to one-under-par.
Lane, a two-times Scottish Senior Open champion, overcame illness and injury to set the pace by one shot from a quartet of players, including defending champion Paul Wesselingh.
Lane was bed-ridden at the start of the week with a virus and has also been suffering with a back problem, but despite dropping a shot on the opening hole, he dug deep to card seven birdies.
“I had flu for four days and a disc problem in my back, so I’ve been struggling,” he said. “I actually came out here a week early but I didn’t play until the Pro-Am on Wednesday and Thursday. I’ve been feeling terrible and I had the shakes out there today.
“I just got better as the round went on and hung in there. I putted lovely. I played nicely, but I putted beautifully. I hit some quality shots and just tried to keep it on the fairway and on the green.
“I guess leading is a little unexpected, but they do say beware the injured golfer. I’ve not played or hit any balls since 20 November, so I just went out there and tried to swing it easy. So, in the circumstances, it’s a good round and nice to be up there.”
Closer to home, Paul Lawrie won the 36-hole event staged by his foundation at Pestana Vil Sol in Vilamoura, Portugal, by seven shots after following up an opening 67 with a 70 to finish on seven-under. “Been a really good few days,” wrote Lawrie on Twitter before joking: “The right guy won.”
Tartan Tour No 1 Greig Hutcheon was (72-72) was second, followed by Ross Kellett (75-71), while the best second-day improvement came from Paul Shields. His 66 – the best over the two days – was 12 shots better than his first-round effort.
In Spain, meanwhile, two Scots came through stage one in their bid to earn Alps Tour cards next season. Fifer Scott Stewart-Cation (70-71) finished joint-seventh at one of the courses at La Cala while amateur Kevin Duncan (79-70) was 15th at another one. But Javier Ballesteros, Seve’s son, agonisingly missed out by a single shot at the third course.