EUROPEAN Tour chief executive George O’Grady has defended Colin Montgomerie’s entry into Golf’s Hall of Fame, describing the Scot’s feat in winning eight Order of Merit titles as “superhuman”.
Montgomerie was inducted on Monday night along with two compatriots, ex-European Tour supremo Ken Schofield and golfing pioneer Willie Park jnr, as well as former world No 1 Fred Couples and renowned broadcaster Ken Venturi.
Two-time major winner Tony Jacklin and fellow Hall of Famer Ray Floyd both questioned Montgomerie’s election in the run-up to the ceremony in St Augustine, Florida, claiming his failure to win a major was a glaring omission on his CV.
However, O’Grady has jumped to the defence of the 49-year-old by holding up his European Tour record – he topped the Order of Merit seven years in a row from 1993, then regained the title in 2005 – as the benchmark on the circuit.
“Colin’s achievement in winning the Harry Vardon Trophy eight times, including seven in a row, took considerable talent, skill, imagination, endurance, physical strength and mental resilience,” said the Irishman, who was also at Monday’s ceremony and presented Montgomerie with an award to mark his induction. “Any aspiring and ambitious golfer on the European Tour today craves the opportunity to win the Race to Dubai, which has succeeded the Order of Merit, just once. To do it eight times is universally viewed as a superhuman feat.”
Montgomerie, who won 31 times on the European Tour and also played on eight consecutive Ryder Cup teams before leading Europe to victory at Celtic Manor in 2010, was just the third player to be inducted via the International Ballot without having won a major title.
In his acceptance speech – Montgomerie admitted it was a “humbling experience” to join the sport’s Hall of Fame – the Scot reflected on some of his near misses, notably when he made a double-bogey from the middle of the fairway at the 72nd hole to lose out to Australian Geoff Ogilvy in the 2006 US Open at Winged Foot.
“That’s the one that hurts,” said Montgomerie, who also lost the 1994 US Open and the 1995 USPGA Championship in play-offs and was runner-up to Ernie Els in the 1997 US Open at Congressional.
“I’ve enjoyed thoroughly my exploits in major championships. I just haven’t been fortunate, or whatever it takes. I’ve never, ever stood up and made a winner’s speech and said I was unlucky. Never. I never will.
“There’s always a time where a bit of fortune comes your way, whether it be for you or against your opponent at the time, and it just so happens that I just haven’t been so-called fortunate to walk through the door. The door has been ajar many a time. I just haven’t been able to walk through it.
“So, at the same time, if you’re talking about regrets of any part of my golfing career, I have none. Absolutely none. I’ve done exactly what I’ve tried to do. I’ve tried 100 per cent on every shot and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.”
It worked for Couples in 1992, when he won the Masters, and the current Seniors Open champion, having claimed that title at Turnberry last summer, was overcome with emotion when it was his turn to be inducted.
“Thanks for taking a kid from Seattle and putting him into the Hall of Fame,” said Couples, a veteran of five Ryder Cups and the man who has led the US to a brace of Presidents Cup victories. “This is the coolest night of my life.”
Pretty apt for a player, even at the age of 53, believed by many golf fans to be the coolest customer in the game, his achievements in which also included becoming the first American to reach No 1 in the official world rankings.
“I never thought about the Hall of Fame as a kid,” admitted Couples, who was elected on the PGA Tour ballot. “I never made a putt at the golf course thinking ‘wow, if I make this I’m in the Hall of Fame.’ No one does that. But when you get in there it’s quite an honour.” Schofield, who was at the helm of the European Tour during its period of significant growth, earned his place through the Lifetime Achievement category, as did Venturi, honoured more for his 35-year broadcasting career with CBS Sports than winning a major, as he did in the 1964 US Open at Congressional.
Elected through the Veterans’ route, Park jnr – who won the Open Championship twice, in 1887 and 1889 – joined his father in the Hall of Fame, mainly on the strength of his course-building feats after leaving Musselburgh to become a golfing pioneer in America, though his creations on this side of the Atlantic also include the famed Old Course at Sunningdale.