Insider: Monty embraces time in U.S.
February 19, 2014
By Vartan Kupelian, PGATOUR.COM
- Colin Montgomerie is spending more time on the Champions Tour, and his play is improving as well. (Kinnaird/Getty Images)
Colin Montgomerie is making himself right at home on the Champions Tour.
Montgomerie has played golf on this side of the pond for three decades but he hasn’t quite seen America like he is seeing it these days. That’s fitting because his different perspective is matched by a new synergy with American golf fans.
Montgomerie’s play on the Champions Tour has been excellent and it’s getting better each time he tees it up. After finishing in a tie for sixth last week at the ACE Group Classic in Naples, Montgomerie has returned to the United Kingdom for a couple of weeks of rest and relaxation.
The essence of Montgomerie is his openness. Ask him a question, get an answer. There is no double-speak, there are no euphemisms. That trait has been in full bloom on the Champions Tour. Where he might have held back in the past from revealing himself to American audiences, he displays no such reluctance these days.
Montgomerie has become a global ambassador for the game. That he is also spreading the word in the United States -- here, it’s about the Champions Tour -- reflects a dramatic change. Montgomerie admits it’s not as easy as it once was to jet from the Middle East on the European Tour to Florida and a pair of Champions Tour events. That nine-hour time difference takes its toll.
“I’m taking longer, as I get older, to get over the jet lag,” said Montgomerie, 51. “I used to be quite good at it 25 years ago but now it's taking longer.”
But he does it for a reason.
“Money, really,” Montgomerie said. “That's usually the reason I leave home. If I didn't need the money, I really wouldn't leave home at all, I'd walk my dogs around the pond at home, much easier. But unfortunately I've got to pay for certain things, so I leave and I go off and God knows I go all over the place.”
Money isn’t a subject professional athletes address without some apprehension but Montgomerie, typically, has no reservations in telling it like it is.
He will return to the United States for the Toshiba Classic in Newport Beach, March 14-16.
“I’ll bring the family over there to L.A.,” he said. “They haven't been to L.A. before, so I want to show them around there because that's a special place. Then across to Biloxi, Mississippi, for the next event. It's great, I'm looking forward to it.
“I've often said the country club life in America is a very special one and a very privileged one. Very honored to be part of it and it's great to see different places … I'm seeing more of America than I've ever seen before. I've been here many times throughout my career, but I'm seeing more now and enjoying it.”
That’s not lip service to gain support of the galleries on the Champions Tour. His relationship hasn’t always been the best with American golf fans mostly because he has tormented them with his success on the European Ryder Cup team at the expense of the United States. There is another reason, too. Montgomerie’s candor isn’t always appreciated. But he hasn’t had any issues on the Champions Tour.
“People are slightly sort of cagey when they first meet me because it's first impressions obviously wherever I go here because I haven't been to these places before,” he said. “ 'Oh, God, it’s him.' Then, 'Actually he's all right, he's OK.' It's nice to start from a base of zero and actually all you can do is work up from there, so it's quite good. I've had a great welcome from everybody in the States. Fantastic.
“I realize what they're thinking. That comes from I suppose my days of Ryder Cup stuff and all the stuff that went on back in the sort of mid-to-late '90s when I was No. 2 in the world to Greg Norman, I suppose that threat was there. It's not anymore, so it's a more relaxed and nicer place to be for me and them.”
Montgomerie is good copy – somebody who has a good story and knows how to share it. Here are some of his thoughts on the present, the past and the future:
On the Champions Tour: “I keep saying this, if I ever underestimated anything, it's the standard of play out here. The standard of play is extremely good … You can't afford to slacken off in a three-round event. I'm getting used to playing three rounds and not four. It's more of a sprint than a marathon and you have to get going immediately. There's no fear of a missed cut so there's no lagging up. You’ve got to make birdies.”
On going really low: “I've never been a low, low scorer. I can score 67s, but anything less than that was sort of beyond me. But you need to keep going. We know ourselves. When we get to 5 under or 6 under in a round of golf, sometimes you want off, that's enough because hang on, self-doubt creeps in and you think you're not going to make any more birdies. You've to keep going, you've got to get to 7, you've got to get to 8. If the opportunity arises, you've got to keep going because someone is. Someone out here is going to score that and you've got to keep up with them.”
On his belief that he can do that and win: “I wouldn't be here if I didn't think that. I wouldn't bother flying across the Atlantic so often. I got season tickets, it's expensive. I've got to pay for it.”
On Tom Watson returning this year as captain of the U.S. Ryder Cup team: “I think it's a fantastic coup … they won’t be going to Scotland not to bring the Ryder Cup with them. So it’s game on for Europe.”
On attending the matches: “I look forward to it. I live about three miles from the course there at Gleneagles and I'll be there. I might just cycle in because the traffic will be bad. I might get on my bike, do me a world of good. Here's Monty coming in on his bike. It saves parking, saves the traffic jams … I'm not using any fuel, I'm not using any CO2, my carbon footprint is reduced. It's all good.”
On his father James, who would later become secretary of Royal Troon: “He was in the cookie business actually (Fox’s Biscuits), believe it or not. Hence, my excess weight. And they were warm then, I got them right off the conveyor belt, they were bloody good, you know?”