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Colin Montgomerie validating his career on PGA TOUR Champions
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.”
MAGIC MONTGOMERIE WINS IN DENMARK
Colin Montgomerie claimed his ninth win on the Staysure Tour after a scintillating final round at the Shipco Masters promoted by Simon’s Golf Club.
The Ryder Cup legend, who had not won on the Staysure Tour since 2015, came from four shots behind as he fired a five under par round of 67 to take victory at Simon’s Golf Club ahead of English duo Paul Eales and Barry Lane, who both finished on eight under par.
Montgomerie’s 1993 Ryder Cup teammate and overnight leader Peter Baker carded a three over par round of 75, while the Scotsman seized the opportunity to add the inaugural Shipco Masters promoted by Simon’s Golf Club to his impressive CV, after he recorded an eagle and five birdies and dropped just two shots on his way to victory.
A second round of 67 saw the 31-time European Tour winner move into prime striking position before his final round, and got off to a perfect start with a birdie on the first.
The day turned in Montgomerie’s favour when he eagled the seventh hole with a two-foot putt to lead in Kvistgård. A dropped shot on the ninth hole brought him within reach of the chasing pack but three birdies on the final nine holes, including a final gain on the 17th, saw the Scottish star secure his first victory on European soil since the 2015 Travis Perkins Masters.
“It feels superb, absolutely superb. It means as much as any of the wins on the European Tour or wherever it might be, this is superb, it really is,” he said. “There were 60 guys starting and you’ve ended up at the top of the pack – the self-esteem goes through the roof when you win. It has given me a lot of confidence to go forward now for the rest of the year.
“I needed something in the mid-60s – I knew that. I played for a five at the last knowing I was three ahead. Anytime you score 67 it can’t be that bad, you can’t be playing on the Tour badly, so two 67s was good. I needed that after a disappointing first round 71.
“I knew I had to get out of the blocks early. I had to put pressure on Peter Baker and Barry Lane – known winners. I had to put pressure on them early on and I managed to do that and then sustained it.
“The eagle at the seventh was the key shot of the round. A good driver and then a five iron down wind to about two foot and that propelled me from about third or fourth to leading. That changed things and I thought lets just try and play around this course and do things properly and I was three under from then on, so that was good golf.”
Fellow victorious Ryder Cup Captain Paul McGinley and South Africa’s James Kingston carded final rounds of five under par to join Baker in a share of fourth place.
1991 Masters Champion Ian Woosnam recorded a blemish-free round of five under par to move to tied seventh. While Dame Laura Davies, who made history as she became the first female to compete in a Staysure Tour event, finished a commendable tied 44th.
Montgomerie’s victory maintains his position in second place on the Staysure Tour Order of Merit after he moved to second last week with a tied sixth finish at the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship.
Read more at European Tour