THE Jack Nicklaus Award, claimed for a fourth time by Bernhard Langer as the Champions Tour Player of the Year, will have to wait for another season. Before he even tees off in Mauritius today, however, Colin Montgomerie has already secured a prize bearing another of the game’s iconic names.
No matter what happens over the next three days in the MCB Tour Championship, the Scot will pick up the John Jacobs Trophy as No 1 on the European Senior Tour this season. More than £300,000 ahead of his nearest rival, Canadian Rick Gibson, Montgomerie can’t be caught in the Order of Merit title race.
He is only the second Scot to top the over-50s’ money-list – Sam Torrance achieved the feat three times in five years from 2005 – and now Montgomerie has his sights set on signing off the year in style, as Englishman Paul Wesselingh did when winning the season-ending event at the Belle Mare Plage Resort 12 months ago to claim the same crown.
“It will be great to go back home for Christmas with the John Jacobs Trophy,” admitted the 51-year-old who, of course, picked up the Harry Vardon equivalent for winning the European Tour Order of Merit, including an astonishing seven years in a row. “It is a thrill for me to win the Order of Merit on the Senior Tour,” he added. “I managed to do it eight times on The European Tour and I have those trophies at home, so the John Jacobs Trophy will now take pride of place among them.”
Sixth on his debut in the event, Montgomerie continued: “It would be great to be able to do what Paul Wesselingh did last year and win the tournament as well as the John Jacobs Trophy. It would be nice to round a great season off with another win, and that’s what I’ll be trying to do.”
It just shows what a good year it’s been for the 2010 Ryder Cup captain that he’s secured the title before this event without his biggest cheque of the season – a £400,000 whopper for winning the US Senior Open – counting in the race.
Even if the near £225,000 he picked up in the US Senior PGA Championship – the first of his two over-50s major victories – had also been discounted, perhaps creating more of a level playing field, Montgomerie would still be sitting in top spot in the rankings.
That’s because, in three events on this side of the Atlantic, he won a couple of them – defending his Travis Perkins Masters title at Woburn then adding the Russian Open – and finished runner-up to runaway winner Langer in the other, the Senior Open Championship at Royal Porthcawl.
“I’ve got the family here with me, so it is a marvellous way to finish the year,” admitted Montgomerie, who sets out today in the company of Gibson, who finished just behind the Scot in Wales. “The MCB Tour Championship is a big week for the Senior Tour. The leading 60 players from the year are here, and rightly so, as it is a great tournament.”
“It’s quite a tricky course,” he added of the Legend layout. “You walk around the course and think it is 68 or 67 stuff, and yet there is a natural breeze from the ocean, and you have to position the ball, so your course management skills are tested. Scoring is higher because of that, and the greens are grainy and small. It is a challenging golf course, one you feel you should score on but you don’t necessarily do.”
Discounting majors, this year’s European Senior Tour schedule has consisted of just 11 events, making it difficult for players competing mainly on this side of the Atlantic to get any real momentum going.
Therefore, Edinburgh man Andrew Oldcorn has done well to get into a position where he comes into this event with something to play for. Eighth on the money-list, with three top-five finishes, the 54-year-old can open some doors for next season with a strong finish to the year. For instance, he will get into the US Senior Open by climbing two spots in the rankings come Sunday night.
Ross Drummond (14th) still has a chance of climbing into the top ten while the field also includes Torrance as well as Gordon Brand Jnr, Bill Longmuir, Stephen McAllister and Archerfield Links designer DJ Russell.