Colin Montgomerie on loving his American adventures, relishing return to Gleneagles and why winning is ‘bloody difficult’

In fairness, he’s mellowed quite a bit, but bad days at the office still sting. At this particular event, the recent Dubai Desert Classic, he started with an 80. A pre-arranged post-round chat that Thursday with one of the top golf writers in the UK was never going to happen. “Let’s do it another day” was essentially his message from him.

Apparently, he flushed that dismal day on the Majlis Course at Emirates Golf Club out of his system a lot quicker than he’d have done in the past. He was eight shots better the next day, but he still missed the cut. Similar early exits were also his fate in Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah on the Middle East Swing, but he is no longer defined by performances on the renamed DP World Tour.

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The man who was crowned as European No 1 a remarkable seven times in a row and eight in total is driven these days by the Champions Tour, the US-based over-50s circuit. In his 40s, Montgomerie regularly vowed that he’d never become a golden oldie in the senior ranks. Yet he quickly changed his mind after hitting a half-century.

Colin Montgomerie in action recently on the DP World Tour but his main workplace these days is the Champions Tour. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images.

“I do love it,” he said of now playing the majority of golf in the US, where he is currently making his first 2022 Champions Tour appearance in the Chubb Classic in Florida. “I hate to use this term, but I have embraced it and the American fans have embraced me. And it’s a big change. I didn’t really enjoy going to America during the 90s. It was difficult for me because I was No 2 in the world and a bit of a threat and it wasn’t really working out well. Now I’m welcomed with open arms because I’m not the threat I used to possibly be.

“But, at the same time, they have been very welcoming and I do enjoy it. And I’ve done okay. I’ve won seven times and I really enjoy it. I also enjoy the adventures. sarah [Casey, his manager and partner] and I drive everywhere and it’s superb. We’ve ended up at Graceland and at Southfork and the gunfight at the OK Corral in Arizona, all these crazy places for goodness sake.

“I’ve probably seen more states than some Americans have on the tour over the years. I’ve only not been to about four states, including Montana and North Dakota but you wouldn’t, wouldn’t you? (laughing). But it’s been fantastic and I love it.”

Montgomerie’s dad, James, a former secretary of the Royal Troon, is still alive, but his mum, Elizabeth, died of cancer just over 20 years ago. Both have played a part in the 58-year-old trying to prolong his career as long as he possibly can.

Colin Montgomerie enjoyed his recent appearance in the Dubai Desert Classic despite missing the cut at Emirates Golf Club. Picture: Oisin Keniry/Getty Images.

“I saw my parents at 50 and that generation was an older generation,” he added. “50 is the new 40 in many ways and I needed a purpose in life. I needed to get out of bed in the morning and do something and the Champions Tour came along and I thought, ‘I’m still competitive, so why not give it a go?’

“If I hadn’t enjoyed it, then I’d have given it a couple of years then done something else’. But I have enjoyed it. This is my eighth year now on the tour and I really have embraced it and they have embraced me. It’s a joining, so it’s worked well.”

His successes include three majors, having landed both the Senior PGA and US Senior Open in 2014 then successfully defending the former in 2015. His last regular victory came in 2019 and, after his least successful campaign so far, he finished 33rd on the Charles Schwab Cup money-list in 2020-21. He’ll never be content, though, with just making up the numbers.

“Yes, I do,” he replied to being asked if he still believed more wins were in the tank. “I wouldn’t be going over there – a long way from home, it’s a 4,000-mile commute to work (laughing) – if I didn’t think I could win. I think the time I would finish would be the time that the best I could do is, say, 10th. If that’s the best I can do, well, I think I’d just get a couple of labradors and start walking on the West Sands at St Andrews. I might call them Chip and Putt, you never know. I still feel that if I play my best, I have a chance of winning and, therefore, we will keep going.”

Colin Montgomerie celebrates with his caddy Alastair McLean after winning a second successive Senior PGA Championship Presented By KitchenAid at the Pete Dye Course at the French Lick Resort, Indiana, in 2015. Picture: Andy Lyons/Getty Images.

If there was to be one last big hurrah, the Senior Open at Gleneagles in July would probably be as good as it gets. “Yes, especially with the course they’ve chosen,” he said of that particular assignment this year. “I’m so glad they’ve chosen the King’s Course as the Ryder Cup Course, PGA Centenary Course or whatever you want to call it is boring and I’m so glad that we’re not playing on that course. We’re going to the James Braid-designed King’s Course and we’ve got some character about the place. So that’s the first reason I’m looking forward to it.

“Secondly, the Americans will come across from St Andrews (where the 150th Open takes place the previous week) and straight from the States as well and around the world. A lot of them will not have played at Gleneagles because they stopped playing there after the Bell’s Scottish Open moved on and they will love it. There are three iconic golf hotels in Scotland at Gleneagles, Turnberry and the Old Course Hotel and I’d have to say that Gleneagles would be No 1. I think it is going to be a tremendous event, I really do. It’s a great venue and I am delighted to be heading there in July.”

But what about 1992, when, wearing a Saltire sweater on the last day, he had a Scottish Open victory in his sights only to denied as Australian Peter O’Malley covered the last five holes in an astonishing seven-under-par as he signed off with a 62 to finish two shots ahead of the home hope?

“I love Peter O’Malley, I really do,” said Montgomerie, laughing aloud. “I think he’s a super bloke. I’m delighted that I have finished seven-under for the last five holes, you know. All credit to him. Fantastic. Well done Peter and he shares my birthday as well – 23rd of June – couldn’t be bloody worse. Hey, that was in my hands. I was four ahead and I finished the last five holes in two-under and I lost. That was freakish as you don’t see that happening very often. But best of luck to him.

Waring his Saltire sweater, Colin Montgomerie is watched by a huge gallery in the final round of the 1992 Bell’s Scottish Open on the King’s Course at Gleneagles. Picture: Ted Blackbrow/Daily Mail/Shutterstock.

“Yes, I’d like to do well in July. It was one of the events I was invited to by Lord MacFarlane. He gave me an invite to the Bell’s Scottish Open in 1987 as an amateur and I made the cut. I will always remember that as I went on the green for the presentation ceremony.

“I think Woosie (Ian Woosnam) won that year and I got the amateur medal as I’d played on all four days. That meant a lot to me and I always liked the Scottish Open, eventually winning it at Loch Lomond in 1999. That was great, so I’d love to do something similar this time around.”

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In his prime, Montgomerie was a machine. Yes, of course, it still ranks that he did n’t win a regular major, finishing second five times, but his legendary status on what is now called the DP World Tour will be forever etched in the record books thanks to those Order of Merit title triumphs.

“What was the ingredient? Why was it different for me than others?” he said. “Okay, I was extremely consistent at that time. But, at the same time, I always had this goal on a Saturday night of always trying to move up the leaderboard. Even if I was 30th, I wanted to finish 29th. If I was 20th, I wanted to finish 19th. If I was second, it was a case of thinking, ‘how the hell do I win?’ So it was always a case of trying to beat where I was on Saturday night.

“It’s amazing how over the course of a year – 35 to 40 tournaments – how that added up. One year, my good friend, Sam Torrance, missed out by one shot. It was one shot in ’95 and I think ’99 was just a couple of shots.

“It’s amazing how that mental approach to try and finish as high as humanly possible, not giving up on any shot during any round and never thinking that you didn’t want to be there or couldn’t wait to be at the airport, made a difference. Nerd. I was always trying to finish as high as I could as I knew that sometimes that one or two shots was the key.”

Our chat took place just a couple of days after Scott Jamieson had been unable to convert a winning position heading into the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship at Yas Links. The reaction to that from one individual on social media was somewhat cruel towards the Florida-based Glaswegian.

“It is slightly unfair,” said Montgomerie of the expectation levels for Scottish golfers in particular at times. “It’s like people saying he’s good, he’ll win a major or he’s good and he will win two or three majors. There are only four per year. It’s like everyone in that top 10 in the English Premier League wanting to finish in the top four. But there’s only four that can do it. So it’s not easy.

“I had a winning mentality. My worst position on tour was second. But you still had to beat the competition on the day. There were still around 150 guys wanting to beat you and I wanted to beat them. I wouldn’t be too negative about anyone not winning. It’s bloody difficult to win. Because we are Scottish and because we are the home of golf, it’s our national sport, it doesn’t mean that we should win every week.

“I think a lot of them are doing well and they are working hard at it. But it’s bloody difficult to win. You’ve got to be fortunate. There was never a time in my career that I held a trophy aloft and thought ‘I was unlucky here’. Never, whether it was for me or against my opponent at the time. So there is always that. Holing the putts at the right place at the right time and getting a little fortunate. It has all got to pan out unless you are not going to win. Yes, you can play well, but winning isn’t easy. Not at all.”

It was recently announced that Netflix is ​​to produce a docu series that will aim to provide unprecedented behind-the-scenes access to some of the game’s top players as they compete on the PGA Tour. Maybe they should think about doing a special episode featuring Montgomerie.

“Yeah, I suppose I would have been okay in something like that,” he said, smiling. “It would have been a case of ‘okay, we’ve seen someone who is relaxed and whatever and now you see Monty, who is more tense, he’s more uptight, he’s here for business, he’s here to win’.

“Seriously, though, I am sure they will produce it well and it will come over very well and it will show the tour and the game of golf up in a very positive light. And that’s important because some sports aren’t being shown in a positive light right now, but golf is.

“We’ve got a fantastic set of players now to take over from [Tiger] Woods and [Phil] Mickelson, even though Mickelson won a major last year. If you look at that top 10 in the world right now, we are very fortunate. And not just when it comes to the golfing standard. Off the course, we are very lucky to have some terrific ambassadors in the game at the moment.”

In his own way, Montgomerie is filling a similar role as he charms his new band of American fans.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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