By Vartan Kupelian, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
Colin Montgomerie is looking forward with great anticipation to the next phase of his playing career.
And he’s returning to America to pursue it.
“As I near 50 next month, I will be spending the majority of my time here in America competing on the Champions Tour,” Montgomerie said Monday night during his induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, Fla.
“I personally look forward to walking the fairways again with my good friends Bernhard Langer and fellow inductee Freddie Couples.”
Montgomerie offered a caveat.
“The standard of golf at the recent Masters tournaments has thrown me and leaves me with a lot of practicing to do to compete against them,” he said.
Rest assured Monty will be ready for the challenge. He celebrates his 50th birthday on June 23, on the eve of the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship at Fox Chapel in suburban Pittsburgh.
As an undergrad, Montgomerie attended Houston Baptist University and “thoroughly enjoyed not only the golf but the entire experience of university life here in the States.” He’s been a part of the international golf scene ever since, dominating on the European Tour for more than a decade but enjoying only scattered success in the United States. There is a glaring omission in his 40 worldwide victories: None have come on the PGA TOUR. Montgomerie’s shining moments in America have come in the Ryder Cup.
At one point, the eight-time winner of the European Tour’s Order of Merit (1993-1999, 2005) was considered the best player in the world never to have won a major. He has passed that baton to others. His goal now is to enjoy and flourish on the Champions Tour, and finally earn that professional title on American soil.
Montgomerie’s journey to the WGHOF began as a 5-year-old.
“In Troon, Scotland, that’s about all you do,” he said. “I must thank my father James … for introducing me to golf, in fact my older brother and my late mom all played at one stage to single‑figure handicaps. I'm often asked if I could play in any four‑ball who would you choose? My answer has always been to reenact the great family games between dad, mom, my brother and myself.”
Montgomerie shared a story about how his professional career began. The occasion was the 1986 Open Championship at Turnberry, down the twisting road from Troon, where the American-educated business major had an interview with IMG officials to join the firm as a sports agent. The interview included nine holes of meet-and-greet golf at Turnberry.
“I drove out to the light house at Turnberry to play nine holes in a job interview,” he said. “Now, a lot of you, as I, were really watching your 'P's' and 'Q's' in job interviews and not really concentrating on what was going on, and neither was I. And just played in, was talking to them about the position that I was going to hopefully accept in the London office of IMG under the auspices of Mark McCormack at the time.
“I didn't realize I was playing quite well. I never did, really. And I came back that day in 29 at Turnberry.”
The interviewers decided right then and there that they didn’t want Montgomerie to work for them. They wanted to work for Montgomerie as his agents.
Montgomerie takes many positives from his experiences in America.
“The opportunity to compete in the American majors, although not quite capturing one of them, it gave me great confidence to take back home to Europe,” he said.
Montgomerie is amazed at the level of competition these days throughout the game.
“This is happening all over the world,” he said. “Look at the recent Masters tournament where we had a 14‑year‑old competing, and I say competing, not just playing, because he made the cut. And also we've just witnessed a 12‑year‑old competing in this year's Volvo China Open.”
Montgomerie has enjoyed a number of high finishes in majors, including five in second place. The sequence began with a third at the 1992 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, perhaps best known for the declaration by Jack Nicklaus that Montgomerie had won only to have Tom Kite produce an unexpectedly outstanding performance in difficult conditions.
Two years later, Montgomerie lost a playoff to Ernie Els at Oakmont Country Club for the U.S. Open again. He lost another playoff, to Steve Elkington, at the 1995 PGA Championship. Els defeated Montgomerie at the 1997 U.S. Open. In 2006, at Winged Foot, Montgomerie had maybe his best chance to win a major, needing only a par from the middle of the 18th fairway. He made double-bogey 6 to lose by one stroke.
Montgomerie doesn’t have trouble identifying his finest achievements, on and off a golf course.
“I suppose seven money lists, as you say over here in the States, Order of Merit we call them,” he said. “But seven in a row, that was something that I look back on and realize how special it was now that the guys winning it seem to be winning it one year and not the next or whatever. So seven in a row seems to be quite special for some reason. So I'm probably most proud of that.
“But I look back at my career, I suppose raising the Ryder Cup as captain in 2010, to regain the Ryder Cup from the victory that the States had in 2008, to raise the Ryder Cup was a very proud moment. It's funny because I never hit a golf shot, and you've asked me what the proudest moment of my career is. I suppose hitting golf shots got me to that stage, but without hitting a golf shot, raising the Ryder Cup I suppose has to be.”
There is another special moment that has had nothing to do, directly at least, with hitting a golf shot.
“Although I have never won a major, coming runner‑up five times, my major in life will be without doubt the opening of two cancer care centers in Scotland, named after my late mom,” Montgomerie said.