THE big events keep coming for Colin Montgomerie, who sets out in Sacramento today in defence of his US Senior Open title. The $3.5 million tournament at Del Paso Country Club is his fifth major on the trot, having followed three over-50s versions with a first US Open appearance in seven years last week.
Montgomerie, who turned 52 on Tuesday, has already made a successful defence of his Senior PGA Championship title last month. His main threat in this event is likely to be Bernhard Langer, one of the Scot’s playing partners in the opening two rounds.
Indeed, there is a fair chance that amateur Patrick Tallent will be playing with Sunday’s winner as he makes up that group. After all, six of the last seven over-50s majors have been won by either Langer or Montgomerie. The only exception during that stretch was Jeff Maggert’s victory in the Regions Tradition in May.
Montgomerie, who beat American Gene Sauers in a three-hole play-off in Oklahoma last year, was the lone Champions Tour player to make the cut at Chambers Bay last week. After an opening 69, he finished joint 64th. He will be happy, no doubt, to be back playing at a more manageable course, though he insists his success in racking up three Senior majors in just over 12 months has been far from easy.
“It isn’t easy when you are up against highly-competitive guys like Mark O’Meara, Tom Lehman and Kenny Perry, Freddie Couples and Bernhard Langer, to name a few,” said Montgomerie after his win in French Lick in Indiana last month. “When I do win, I am having to play very close to the levels I was in the 1990s.”
The eight-times European No 1 won’t have to worry about Couples this week as the American withdrew due to a back injury, but he will have his work cut out trying to finish ahead of Langer. The German turned the most recent over-50s major, the Players Championship, into a procession as he won by six shots. Despite that, Montgomerie is leading the Charles Schwab Cup, the money-list on the Champions Tour. “We’ll have a battle royal coming in the last few months on the Tour, but I look forward to it,” admitted Montgomerie of his bid to topple Langer. “He’s a great champion.”
After this event, Montgomerie will dash back to Britain to play in Tuesday’s Open Championship Final Qualifying event at Woburn. If he gets into the Claret Jug joust at St Andrews, his run of majors will stretch to seven as it precedes the Senior Open at Sunningdale.
“I get in from LA on Monday evening, that’s the earliest I can get home,” he said. “[Caddie] Alastair [McLean] will pace the course out on Monday night while I’m in bed! I’ve won a couple of Travis Perkins Seniors there, but that was on the Duke’s Course. This event is on the Marquis and I’ve got two rounds to try and get into The Open.”
Tom Watson is making his 15th US Senior Open appearance this week in an event that also includes Australian Peter Fowler, winner of the recent PGA Seniors Championship at Close House, near Newcastle. Fowler secured his place in the field through one of the sectional qualifiers.