'My caddie's scared stiff to walk behind me in case I pull the trigger'
Colin Montgomerie has been playing tournament golf since 1988 but only for six weeks under the new Rules of Golf. We sat down with the 55-year-old to get his thoughts on the good, the bad and the ugly rules incidents of the new season.
And, as ever, the Scot was brilliant value…
How are the 2019 Rules of Golf working out for you?
Well, we got a two-page amendment on the Thursday of a tournament last week from the PGA Tour who run our tour and there was another page amendment on the Friday as well.
All the new rule books which we got given, they all have to be amended within weeks. It’s really not great to be honest. The world bodies have got together to speed up play, as that’s killing the game, and they’re not getting it right practically.
What could have been done differently?
In theory these rules work well but in practice they’re not working as well as they should. I’m amazed that some of the tournament committee from the European Tour, the players, and those on the Player Advisory Council on the PGA Tour, say two from each tour around the world, aren’t sitting on a panel with R&A and USGA and saying that something might work well in theory but, practically, on the field of play it doesn’t.
And the caddies should have been involved, if you’re changing things that involve the caddies they should have had some input. The caddies would give a different view of various aspects of the rules. I agree with what they’re trying to do but it’s not happening.
As a fellow player what do you make of the big incidents we’ve had already this season?
Haotong Li was a real shame. The guy wasn’t gaining an advantage as he hadn’t even addressed the ball.
And then there was the Denny McCarthy penalty at the Waste Management that was rescinded the day after. He’s gone to bed on a two-shot penalty and his mind will be fried, he’s trying to make it on the tour and then they say no it was OK and you can have the two shots back. Hopeless really. Let’s hope there’s no more of that go on.
Everybody is calling for a referee now and that’s not speeding things up much. Let’s hope in six months it will settle down but there will be mistakes and penalties made.
How are you and your caddie, Alastair, working in tandem to avoid any mishaps?
Alastair and I have been together for 26 years and he’s scared stiff to walk behind me at any time in case I pull the trigger. The caddies are all terrified about where they can stand at any time. I could come out of a bunker or hit a chip from the back of a green and Alastair might be with my bag, if I hit to a foot then I can now putt out with the flagstick in and he might be dead in line with me so is that a penalty? He’s probably looking at me so what’s the distance that he can be away from me? Is 20 feet away acceptable?
How about Ready Golf?
That’s not worked quite yet, we’re not into that, that’s more for the amateurs. If you have your back to the guy and he’s about to play then that’s not practical.
You played in Dubai where Bryson DeChambeau won. What did you make of his caddie exchange that got so much abuse but might have been one of the best insights we’ll ever get into what a player is thinking before a shot?
People buy golf magazines for instruction and that minute of insight with all the talk of air density, how the ball was going to fly and react on the green, that was magic. It took 30 seconds longer than it should do but it was so interesting for the avid golfer who should be thinking that was superb. We all wish he was a bit quicker but it was fascinating to hear what he thinks.
He could have had a bad time and next one would be a shot penalty and people would think great but I’m on the fence there. I want it quicker but at the same time that was as good as having a camera on Lionel Messi’s head and he’s attacking three defenders and going this way and that way and selling a dummy. How good would that be?
Ben Hogan put an extra spike in his right shoe to help him turn better and to give him more support. People have been looking to gain edges in every way and this guy is different. I like him, he’s very pleasant to talk to and a breath of fresh air in many ways.
Flag in or flag out?
Very interesting, I’m out as I’ve been playing for 50 years and I’ve never putted with the pin in. If I did it would depend on the thickness and make-up of the pin, fibreglass deadens the ball so that would help. In some clubs and a lot of links courses the pins are thicker as they get blown around and that would only repel the ball more so than help it.
At Ilkley where I grew up they were always very thick and that would also repel it. The pins in America or the European Tour are different than usual club pins.
Have you hit a putt with it in at any point yet?
I had a 50-foot putt and said to Alastair not to worry holding the pin but I never will from 10 foot, I like it clear and out the way. I like things clean.
How long are we going to be talking about the new rules?
Let’s just hope that by the time Augusta comes around things have improved. Imagine if something happens there with a caddie or something else. Let’s hope we’re in a better place by then.
Ditches and water lend themselves to problems in terms of pace of play and rulings and one thing that is certain is that you’re not going to do it on your own, you’ll ask for advice and, if they get it wrong, then it’s not on you. Put the blame on someone else.
Colin Montgomerie is an ambassador for Loch Lomond Whiskies, The official spirit of The Open. For more information and to buy the unique range of single malts, visit their website.