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Colin Montgomerie

‘If Vijay had hit the fairway I would have won the US Open’

Colin Montgomerie opens up on that shot at Winged Foot when the much-discussed wait for a major looked to be over
 

Barely a US Open passed in the 1990s without a lot of us getting excited about Colin Montgomerie, but it will always be Winged Foot that he will be associated with. One straightforward 7-iron and America’s national open could easily have been his and we could look elsewhere for someone else as the Best Player Never To Have Won A Major. He talks us through that near miss…

I had five major runner-up finishes, four where I was beaten and one where I beat myself so people talk about that one. And that of course was Winged Foot in 2006. Everyone thought it was my time. I had done the difficult thing and hit the fairway at the 18th. That shot actually won me the European Tour’s Shot of the Month.

Things went against me in the timing situation. If I had played that shot in real time I would have won. Unfortunately, Vijay Singh hit it silly left off the tee and needed two drops, one to get out of one tent and another to get out of another, and it all took eight or nine minutes.

I’m not blaming Vijay of course, but if my playing partner had hit the fairway I think I would have won the US Open. That sounds an odd thing to say and people will say your playing partner shouldn’t affect how you play but it does. Whether they are slow or fast you are affected.

The protocol is to wait for a player who is further away. Now with the rules as they are, I wouldn’t have been thought badly of had I had just played it in real time, which is what I would have done.

I’m a fast player, sometimes to my detriment, and the longer people are over a putt you think he’s going to miss as there are too many negative thoughts.

I had holed a huge putt at the 17th and, if I hadn’t have calmed down, then I wouldn’t have hit the fairway. I’ve never seen my caddie Alistair McLean as buoyant as he was there but I hit the fairway. I had a short break on the 18th tee as we watched the group ahead and I hit the right side of the fairway. Left was a bit blocked out sometimes so I was perfect.

When a hole sets up with the pin on the right side of the green that is my green light. On the left is my red light. So I was on the right side of the fairway with the pin on the right and the whole green sloping left to right – as a fader, I couldn’t have asked for anything more. A birdie was as likely as a par.

I fatted it.

Between my second and third shot I was still hopeful as I didn’t realise I had such a poor lie and, from there, I could only hit the middle of the green. I thought I could get up and down.

When I saw the ball I had no chance. I tugged it left from thick rough, the club snagged up and gave me a very quick putt down the hill, from where I three-putted.

Afterwards, I had a couple of glasses of red wine in the players’ lounge and flew back with my manager Guy Kinnings.

A policeman who was looking after Phil Mickelson stopped me going into the scorer’s hut and didn’t know who I was but otherwise we were OK. I spoke to David Livingstone in the car park and we had a good chat.

After my personal troubles I thought I was getting back to a position where I could and probably would win a major but that was the last time I ever contended.

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