Having already proved that titles can come in threes with his hat-trick of wins in the PGA Championship at Wentworth from 1998 to 2000, Colin Montgomerie can feel quietly confident as he sets out trying to achieve that feat this week.
The Senior PGA Championship has fallen to the Scot by four strokes for the past two years and now he’s returning to the venue for the first of those triumphs – Harbour Shores in Michigan – with a chance to become the event’s first three-time successive winner since Hale Irwin nearly 20 years ago. “It would be very special,” admitted Montgomerie, who landed a first over-50s major when he held off both Tom Watson and Bernhard Langer in the final round two years ago and then added the US Senior Open the same season before making a successful defence of this title at French Lick in Indiana 12 months ago. “It would be a dream come true.”
Montgomerie enjoyed getting a monkey off his back on his last visit to Benton Harbor. “To finally win a 72-hole strokeplay event in America was wonderful,” he added. “It meant as much to me to win the Senior PGA as it did trying to win the PGA on the main tour. It was the same feeling.”
John Daly, the 1995 Open champion, is a recent new recruit to the senior ranks, where Jesper Parnevik, the colourful Swede, recorded a breakthrough win earlier this month. “Oh yes, by 155 other people,” said Montgomerie in reply to being asked if he could be beaten on this occasion. “As soon as you think you have mastered this game, it comes back to bite you. The Champions Tour is getting better every year. The younger guys coming on are stronger, longer and fitter, so it’s getting harder every year to sustain one’s position. But I’ll be battling as hard as ever. I’ve won here before and that gives me confidence. You feel one up on the first tee but you have to prove it over four days.”
Looking beyond this week’s assignment, Montgomerie revealed he is heading to Hillside in Lancashire next month to try and qualify for this year’s Open Championship at Royal Troon. “Where my father is president and I am an honorary member,” pointed out the 52-year-old, who made 21 straight appearances in the Claret Jug joust but has missed out for the past five years.
“It means a great deal. If I’m going to play in one more Open I’d love it to be this one. I did ask for an invitation. If you don’t ask you don’t get. They never give invitations and they’ll not change the rules for me! I’m going to prepare and qualify at Hillside. We will go over there for three days of preparation and let’s hope it comes off.”