Five weeks after damaging ankle ligaments in a soccer kickabout that forced his withdrawal from The Open at St Andrews last month, McIlroy has arrived in Whistling Straits, the links-style monster by the shores of Lake Michigan in Wisconsin.
He appears ready to play in Thursday’s opening round but former Ryder Cup-winning captain Montgomerie, who will also play this week as reigning Senior PGA champion, is concerned if the comeback is a premature one.
“It’s the outside of his ankle, and his left foot, which is the worst for golf,” Montgomerie said. “It takes a lot of strain and fast movement through that particular part of his body. He has said he won’t be back until he’s 100% fit and that’s very sensible.
“It’s a great shame that the last two majors and world events haven’t featured the world number one because that’s where the focus normally lies. And the fact that he’s one of us.”
Montgomerie, 52, does not blame McIlroy for the manner in which he got injured, the Sky Sports summariser putting it down to an “unfortunate accident”.
“What I do hope is that when this does repair itself, that he still has the confidence in himself and the confidence to swing the club the way he did before. That’s the fear. There’ll be a huge amount of tension and pressure through that area. So I do hope that whenever he comes back, he has the confidence to swing through the ball the way he used to.”
If McIlroy does tee up, he will be in a marquee group for the first two rounds with Open winner Zach Johnson and Masters and US Open champion Jordan Spieth, whom Montgomerie feels is a deserving favourite for a third major win of the year.
“It’s been his year, with all respect to Zach Johnson,” Montgomerie said of 22-year-old Spieth.
“And in terms of Whistling Straits, why not? There’s no reason why he can’t do it. He’ll start as favourite and without Rory, he’s the best player in the world... I mean, we all think Rory is young, but this guy is four years younger! I mean, it’s amazing what he’s achieved in this time.”
Sky Sports will be showing the PGA Championship, the last major of the golfing calendar, exclusively live from Thursday, August 13, on Sky Sports 4