August 23, 2019
By Bob McClellan, PGATOUR.COM
Colin Montgomerie’s 2019 season in some ways has been a microcosm of his career in the United States prior to turning 50 and joining PGA TOUR Champions.
He has been exceptional this year. He has six top 10s. He has finished in the top 25 in all 15 events in which he started and finished (he has two WDs, for which he put the blame on an ankle injury that gets aggravated from time to time). He’s coming off a season-best T4 at the DICK’S Sporting Goods Open in New York.
Montgomerie just hasn’t won.
That was the knock on him during his prime. The Scotsman won 31 times on the European PGA TOUR, which ranks fourth all time (behind Seven Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer and Tiger Woods). He won the European Order of Merit a record eight times, including seven in a row. He was a dominant Ryder Cup player, maybe the greatest of all time. He played in eight cups and never lost a singles match with an overall record of 20-9-7.
But for whatever reason, Montgomerie never won a PGA TOUR event on American soil. He had five runner-up finishes in majors, including three at the U.S. Open.
That’s why PGA TOUR Champions has been such a blessing to him. And he’s happy to say it. He has won six times, including three majors. Yes, it has validated his career. Yes, the majors meant a lot. And yes, he’s having the best time here, compared to being the subject of vitriol from American fans during his Ryder Cup heyday.
“I very much so feel accepted,” Montgomerie said Thursday. “It’s a night and day contrast, to be honest. I think when things happened it was round the time that the Nick Faldos of this world and Bernhard Langer to an extent, and Seve, they weren’t on the tops of their games and I was coming through and I was the guy to beat, especially when the words Ryder Cup were mentioned. That stoked the fire a wee bit.
“The Champions Tour I’m less of a threat. The threat angle is gone. So we’re all in the same boat. We all respect each other, the crowds respect us for what we’ve achieved in the past and also the present. It’s a very celebrative place to play, to be honest. I think it’s super. I was once told by my good friend Sam Torrance that it was the best tour in the world, and he’s dead right. Yes, when the gun goes off and the competition goes you know it’s game on. But surrounding all of that it’s a lot more jovial, happy, relaxed feel than any of the PGA TOURS that I’ve played on. It’s a big family out here. We’re very close, and I think the crowds see that and respect that. There’s more respect from the crowd more than anything. It’s a very, very good tour to play on. And I’m really enjoying it.”
With his high finish at the DICK’S, Montgomerie has worked his way up to 17th in the Schwab Cup standings. He’s giving most of the credit for his stellar play this year to his play off the tee. Long one of his strong suits, Montgomerie ranks third in driving accuracy at nearly 79%. He’s also 15th in greens in regulation.
“I’ve always been able to hit the fairway,” Montgomerie said. “That’s the golden rule in my game. If I hit the fairway … my skill in golf for years has been my iron play. Only reason for that is because I hit the fairway. That’s why, then you hit the greens, then you take your chances and that’s how I played the game. It always started with the first shot and htting the fairway. These days it doesn’t really matter where they hit the ball as long as they have wedge in their hands in the second shot. I’d rather put more emmphais back in the first shot, the driver or whatever it is, to hit the fairway.
“There’s more of it (emphasis on driving accuracy) on the Champions Tour than the PGA TOUR. And I would like to think deeper about courses getting longer and longer and longer. That’s nothing to guys now. A 550-yard par 4 is nothing. They just hit it 350 and have 200 left and hit a 6-iron.”
Montgomerie packed his six PGA TOUR Champions victories into his first four seasons out here. He’s 56 now, and he hasn’t won since the 2017 JAPAN AIRLINES Championship. But given the state of his game, he remains a threat to win anytime.
He is as fit as he maybe has ever been. He has seen his old pal Langer and rivals such as Fred Couples and Jay Haas extend their careers.
“It used to be everyone thought of this as a five-year career,” Montgomerie said. “Now I’m thinking 10, maybe even 15 years, which is fabulous.”
He also said he isn’t satisfied with just posting top 10s and top 25s.
“I’m looking forward to playing the best I have this year in the next couple of events,” Montgomerie said. “I’m looking forward to the Boeing Classic and the Shaw Charity Classic. I’d like to think I can contend in one of those two. And who knows, maybe get lucky.”