PITTSBURGH - Colin Montgomerie is coming to America and there is nothing casual or indifferent about his approach.
Montgomerie will make his Champions Tour debut this week at the SENIOR PLAYERS Championship at Fox Chapel Golf Club in Pittsburgh and everything he is saying and doing suggests that he is genuinely excited about being a rookie again.
Montgomerie celebrated his 50th birthday Sunday. Gladly.
“You don't normally look forward to a birthday - do you? - when you get towards 50, but in golfing terms you do,” Montgomerie said. “We're very fortunate that in other sports you would be well gone at 50.”
Montgomerie has been zeroing in on the Champions Tour by speaking to some of the golfers he has known for many years, like Bernhard Langer and Mark O’Meara. In addition, he’s followed closely on television.
“I've been watching more television than I would normally,” he said. “Sky Sports do a very good job in broadcasting the Champions Tour over to Europe, and I'm always surprised at the level of competition and standard that the Champions Tour has.
“Bernhard is a friend and we’ve played many matches together and I know how good he is. He’s on top of the tree right now, the standard is quite phenomenal and I’m in no illusion at all … I look forward to the challenge of it.”
Montgomerie savors the thought of playing with contemporaries.
“Right now I'm playing against guys that are well under half my age, I've got children older than them, and it doesn't seem fair,” he said. “So at least when I get to America I feel that I'm on more of a level playing field.
Montgomerie, who is looking for his first victory since the 2007 European Open at the K Club in Ireland, plans on a busy Champions Tour campaign with about 20 tournaments annually. He embarks on the next phase of his career after giving it considerable thought.
“I said this openly to the European Tour, that I wasn't really going to play Champions Tour golf or senior golf as we call it until I got to 50 and found I was as fit,” he said. “Well, I've never really been fit but as fit as I have ever have been. I think 50 is the new 40 to be honest. I think health has improved to that degree allowing us to go on longer than we would.
“But 50 is old, I thought I would be retiring and I would drive my wife nuts if I stayed home all the time. So I thought I'm better off doing what I do best, which is play golf, and I look forward to the competition almost more than the love of the game of golf. I'm very competitive still and I've remained hungry, hungry for success, and I think that's important.”
Montgomerie will continue to play what he calls “seniors golf” as long as he has an appetite for it and his health allows.
Montgomerie, who was enshrined in the World Golf Hall of Fame earlier this year, had a glorious career on the European Tour as the eight-time winner of the Order of Merit (Money List). He has 40 professional victories and was a central figure in eight Ryder Cups during Europe’s domination.
But he never won on the PGA TOUR, despite a couple of near-misses in major championships. Ironically, the most notable of those came in Pittsburgh, at nearby Oakmont Country Club at the 1994 U.S. Open. Montgomerie and Loren Roberts lost a playoff to Ernie Els.
“I had a great career, a great normal career if you like, and I would get to No. 2 in the world, now being inducted into the Hall of Fame is a great honor, but of course there's always an omission - isn't there? - when you talk about me,” Montgomerie said. “There's a lack of a major championship.
“All I can do from now on is hopefully add a major championship to the resume already in place and I look forward to trying to achieve that … So if I can compete in any major championship, I think it would fulfill a dream, of course it would. There are more golfers over 50 in the world than there are under and it would be fantastic to try and achieve the dream of winning a major championship finally, whether it be normal tour or Senior Tour, I do look forward to it.”
Montgomerie has a busy travel schedule arranged. He was at the U.S. Open at Merion, where he worked in the Sky Sports booth, and last week went to Germany to play the BMW Championship. He arrived in Pittsburgh on Monday for his preparations. He has zigged and zagged between America and the Great Britain for most of the season.
“My game is in good order,” Montgomerie said. “The bag of clubs is good, the equipment is okay. I'm just looking forward to having an opportunity of competing on more of a level playing field. You know, this is what it is. A lot of sport is age related and I'm fortunate I'm playing against guys that hit the ball a mile now and I would like to get back to normality where I can at least compete off the tee with some of the older guys, so I look forward to it.”
“And I've got a new hunger for the game now and I've been working all year towards this date whereby I can compete against (Langer) again. We used to have great battles on the European Tour, Bernhard Langer and myself, and I look forward to it again. I used to come over and play against Couples and Mark O'Meara and Kenny Perry and David Frost and all the great players you have on the Champions Tour. Now I look forward to competing against them again. Really, it's a new chapter in my life and one that I'm really looking forward to.”