Colin Montgomerie won’t try to tell you the pressure is off now that he’s on the Champions Tour, that there is less motivation to compete at the highest level and win.
Quite the contrary.
“I really do want to win out here now, and expectation is quite high,” said Montgomerie, who will make his fourth Champions Tour start this week at the 3M Championship at TPC Twin Cities.
Montgomerie made his debut a month ago, days after his 50th birthday, at the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship, where a late surge enabled him to tie for ninth. He finished T30 at the U.S. Senior Open and T21 at the Senior British Open.
“The competition, it's a hair's breadth from the PGA TOUR,” Montgomerie said. “They can play. Kenny Perry has been scoring 63s and 64s out there at will in the first two tournaments I've played in, and that will compete with anybody, knowing the quality of the courses and the difficulty of them.”
What Montgomerie believes he has going for him on the Champions Tour is a greater sense of calm.
“I am much more relaxed, on and off the course, I am,” said the native of Glasgow, Scotland, who was inducted earlier this year into the World Golf Hall of Fame. “Tee‑to‑green I'm playing as well as I have, and I am more relaxed, and the need doesn't tend to be there. I would love to win, of course. I think winning now would be a bonus more than it would be a need when I was playing those years to try and win a major.
“It's been an eye‑opener, the standard of golf, and yet it's been a lot of fun. I've been welcomed over in America tremendously well, and I look forward to continuing in that vein … it used to be it 'Go home, Monty' and now it's 'Go, Monty.' It's fantastic. They have dropped the 'home.' I think it's super.”
If anything might have surprised Montgomerie, it is that – the fact that the American golf public, often less than hospitable to him during his tournaments on the PGA TOUR, has been welcoming. With that has come a sense of belonging and a very short transitional period.
Montgomerie believes the Champions Tour has given him an opportunity to be born-again, in a golf sense.
“And that's important,” Montgomerie said. “It's a good feeling to have. It's a feeling that I thought I would have where I tee up on the first tee with a chance of winning.
“On the last few years on the European PGA Tour, I felt if I played well, I could finish in the top five, just, if everything goes to plan. I feel that now I can really have an opportunity of winning, and it's a belief change and it's a good one.”
Montgomerie’s emphasis at the moment is on the short game. He’s pleased with the state of his ball-striking. Now it’s a matter of sorting out a short game to the level necessary to win titles. He’s doing that on his own.
“The short game, I know what to do; it's just a matter of doing it,” said the eight-time winner of the European Tour’s Order of Merit (Money List). “Nobody can really tell me anything new. I know it all and I remind myself sometimes of what I used to do and how to do it and what have you.”
Montgomerie acknowledged that in recent years he has suffered from an affliction that commonly impacts recreational golfers.
“I fell afoul of a lot of people's issues in length,” he said. “I was trying to hit the ball too far. I'm trying to hit the ball with a draw, trying to hit a ball so it hit the deck and started to run more.
“I've been back to playing to my strengths, which was fairways and greens, as opposed to trying to hit the ball too far. I think a lot of people from (the ages) 45 to 50, especially, fall into that trap and I was one of them. So I would love to think that the swing is back to a controlled swing and not necessarily having to hit a 7‑iron playing with PGA TOUR pros. You play with Nicolas Colsaerts and see what he's hitting and you feel slightly embarrassed if he's hitting an 8 and you're hitting a 5. That's not good.
“You fall into the trap of trying to hit the ball a little bit too hard and with a draw and it goes further and what have you, and end up making bogeys instead of playing to your strengths,” he continued. “I fell into that trap and openly admit that. So we are back to what we do best, so let's hope that works.”
Montgomerie has been criss-crossing the Atlantic Ocean between the United States and Great Britain in recent weeks to fulfill various commitments. But he’ll be in the U.S. for the next month to compete on the Champions Tour.
“I really look forward to it,” he said. “Great competition. The courses are great. The weather is super and I look forward to it.”