Insider: Monty, Dunlap cross paths in Mississippi
March 18, 2014
By Vartan Kupelian, PGATOUR.COM
- Colin Montgomerie and Scott Dunlap have more alike than some think entering the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic. (Getty Images)
For Colin Montgomerie and Scott Dunlap, different roads have led to the same place.
Montgomerie is a much-heralded international player. Born in Scotland, raised in England and educated in the United States (Houston Baptist University), he was the best player on the European Tour for nearly a decade and a mainspring of Europe’s Ryder Cup team.
When Montgomerie arrived on the Champions Tour scene last summer, there already was a star on his locker. His participation was eagerly anticipated.
Six weeks later, in August, Dunlap celebrated his 50th birthday and embarked on the Champions Tour journey. He, too, has traveled the world playing golf but his debut came with much less fanfare.
These days, the roads are converging. Both will be zeroing in on a Champions Tour victory this week at the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic presented by C Spire.
Dunlap played almost exclusively on the Web.com Tour last year, teeing it up in 22 events. He open qualified for the AT&T Championship, the final full-field event of 2013, and tied for 15th. Dunlap gained fully-exempt status for 2014 by finishing fourth at the National Qualifying Tournament at TPC Scottsdale in November. Dunlap nailed down his spot in a playoff.
Dunlap tied for fifth at the Toshiba Classic last week, his best showing on the Champions Tour by quite some distance. He sandwiched a 64 between a pair of 68s to shoot 13-under. He shot 63 in his season debut during the first round at the Allianz Championship.
A University of Florida product, Dunlap has 11 worldwide professional wins, all but one coming outside of the United States. His most memorable PGA TOUR finishes were a T10 in the 1999 Open Championship at Carnoustie and a T9 the next year at the PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club. In Louisville, Dunlap was the first-round leader then engaged the winner, Tiger Woods, in rounds two and three before giving way in the final round.
A week before the Toshiba Classic, Dunlap took advantage in the break in the Champions Tour schedule to play in the Chile Classic, the Web.com Tour event in Santiago.
“I'm still an exempt member on the Web.com and just kind of slide those in as best I can,” he said. “I don't feel like I've completely relegated myself to the elder circuit, (but) that's certainly taking priority.
“(The Web.com Tour) is where I've been for the last 10 years minus one year in 2012 on the regular tour. I keep joking this is the last year I'll ever be a rookie.”
Dunlap believes remaining active right up until the Champions Tour is a requisite for success.
“I don't know about a leg up, but at least we've been competitive and been playing,” he said. “The Web.com Tour is the toughest professional dollar to earn in the world and I can guarantee that. You had better come ready to go.”
Dunlap is always ready for a good game wherever it takes him.
“South Africa was my first port of call,” he said. “I actually lived down there in the early '90s, took a job. Wasn't about working, it was about still playing and honing my craft, which it helped. And then South America, couple years leading into getting my card in '95, played on that circuit. Canada, a couple summers up there. It's nice that those tours are around when I wasn't good enough to be on the PGA TOUR yet. They were instrumental in me getting there.”
Montgomerie has played better and scored better in every tournament almost since the day he arrived at last year’s Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship in Pittsburgh. He has three top 10s this year, including a T2 at the Toshiba Classic, which he closed in style with a 62.
Montgomerie was too far behind beginning the final round to think that the 14-under he posted a couple of hours before the leaders finished would be good enough for the victory.
“But it's nice to have a good performance, it gives me more confidence to go forward to (Mississippi),” he said. “I'm loving this Tour, I really think it's fantastic. The standard of play is extremely high, the players have made me very welcome. They made me very welcome, so yeah, I'm thrilled.”
Montgomerie, inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2013, has 41 professional wins. An eight-time winner of the European Tour’s Order of Merit (Money List), he has never won on the PGA TOUR. Five times he has finished second in a major championship without winning one of golf’s grand slam events. His most recent victory was last September in the British Senior Masters at Woburn.
“That was a good six years since my last European Tour win, which was 2007 at the European Open at the K Club,” he said. “So winning hasn't really been as fruitful as it was in the '90s. It’s been quiet the last seven years so I would love to win over here, I really would.
“You have a great Tour here, you have a great set of lads. Whether it's today or whether it's down the road, whatever, I would love to win one day around here.”