Three-time senior major champion Colin Montgomerie tells NCG about life on the over-50s circuit and his plans for retirement
Who are the best players to never win a major? Ask 100 people and most of them will say Colin Montgomerie. Thirty-one European Tour wins – the fourth most of all time – and eight Order of Merit titles, including seven in a row from 1993, will bring most to that conclusion.
Of course there were the near misses. The Scot’s CV will always read five runner-up finishes at the majors, but that doesn’t come near to telling the whole story.
Now 56, the man we’ve always known simply as ‘Monty’ is more than making up for it on the senior circuit. Within three months of his 50th birthday, he had his first European Senior Tour win. Within two years he had three majors, with back-to-back four-shot victories at the Senior PGA Championship sandwiching a play-off triumph at the US Senior Open.
So the obvious first question is: Has it made up for missing out on the regular tour majors?
“Very much so,” he tells NCG from his base in Arizona. “Even though I don’t have many regrets from the regular tour.
“What people don’t realise is they are still major championships and the feeling on the final hole of winning a senior major is massive and damn close to the real thing. Steve Stricker said that. Fred Couples and Tom Watson, too. I’ve won three of them and want to add to that.
“It gives me the same buzz. I wouldn’t be doing it otherwise. I’d be out walking the dogs instead.
“I’m playing against the same players I was 20 years ago – Bernhard Langer, Vijay Singh, and Davis Love. I wanted to beat them then and I want to beat them now.
“The competitiveness in me hasn’t changed. When you lose that drive and will to win, I think you’re in trouble.”
That competitiveness on tour has shifted slightly, with players waiting near the 18th green to congratulate their rivals after a victory a common sight on a Sunday evening.
“It’s strange, isn’t it?” Montgomerie ponders. “It didn’t really happen in my era.
“I don’t think anyone was ever at the back of the green giving us a pat on the back. Not in Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer’s era, either.
“But it’s great to see. Some people don’t like it but when Bryson DeChambeau waited to congratulate Patrick Reed at the WGC in Mexico after losing his lead there, I thought that was very big of him.”
At the height of his career Montgomerie lost in play-offs at both the 1994 US Open and 1995 PGA Championship, before further runner-up finishes at the 1997 US Open and 2005 Open Championship.
And who can forget that fateful day at Winged Foot in 2006 when, from the middle of the 18th fairway, he made double-bogey when par would have won him the tournament and his maiden major.
“The way I look at it is that it was great to be there and thereabouts in so many majors, and I choose to take great solace in that,” Montgomerie explains. “If there was one shot I could hit again, it would be that approach shot there, of course.
“But I don’t have any real regrets. I won three [Volvo, now BMW] PGA Championships at Wentworth from 1998 to 2000. Nobody else has done that, so I’m very proud of that record – especially doing it in Europe’s flagship event.”
So what does Montgomerie have planned for when he does eventually hang up his spikes? He has, after all, already tried his hand a TV punditry.
“It wasn’t difficult as I know the game,” he explains. “I wanted to try and relate to the viewer. I wish to return to it in the future.
“I also had a season ticket at Leeds United as a child in Yorkshire. I’d love to start going again. It’s a great atmosphere up there.”
Colin Montgomerie was speaking to Jack Martin on behalf of NCG.
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