The first of five Senior majors gets under way today in Birmingham, Alabama, but it’s the last one, closer to the other Birmingham, that Colin Montgomerie has in his sights. The Senior Open, which is being staged at Royal Porthcawl for the second time in four years, is numero uno on the big Scot’s list of targets in 2017.
He couldn’t get close to Bernhard Langer at the South Wales venue three years ago, carding a respectable five-under-par total on a fiery course to claim second spot but finishing 13 shots behind the German as he produced one of the finest performances ever witnessed. Langer, no doubt, will be the man to beat once more in July, but Montgomerie is determined to get his hands on the over-50s Claret Jug for the first time.
“I won the ‘other’ championship by three shots,” joked Montgomerie of the 2104 event. “I thought I had done extremely well to shoot five under and was waiting to receive the trophy. Unfortunately, they handed it to Bernhard, not me! Seriously, I honestly don’t think we will see the like of those four rounds by Bernhard again. That was one of the great performances.
“The only shame is that the world’s top 50 golfers weren’t in attendance because I reckon he’d have beaten them all. I really do think that. I think it was the best performance of golf in 2014. It was absolutely amazing what he did.”
As for this year, the eight-time European No 1 added: “It really is a fabulous event, and having been second in the Open at St Andrews and second in the Senior Open at Royal Porthcawl, I would love to go one better. It is right on my radar – my No 1 target and the most important event on my calendar – and I am looking forward to it.”
Before then, Montgomerie will be hoping to use this week’s Regions Tradition – Langer is the defending champion after another runaway success, this time by six shots, 12 months ago – to prove he’s fully recovered from the torn ankle ligaments that forced him to sit out Champions Tour events for three months.
His return came in the Insperity Invitational earlier this month in Texas, where former Open champion John Daly recorded his breakthrough win in the over-50s ranks and will now be aiming to use that as a springboard to get in the mix in events like this, as well as the Senior PGA Championship, US Senior Open and the Senior Players Championship before he, too, heads for Royal Porthcawl.
“I went there with a very open mind and I was taken aback at how undulating it was for a links course and how good it was. I was very, very impressed,” admitted Montgomerie of that venue. “It is a very solid golf course and one you have to be extremely careful of, and that’s why the score of Langer in very tricky conditions – dry and bouncy – was so good. You can get the odd lucky bounce, but you can’t be lucky for four days. I enjoyed playing it. It was a course full of character and I put it in the same category as Turnberry and Royal Birkdale.”