Invariably, when Colin Montgomerie offers an opinion his audience sits up and takes notice of his latest views on golf and golfers.
It was almost inevitable therefore that when Monty held court yesterday at St Andrews on the eve of the Senior Open that he would have something interesting to say and he did not disappoint.
He offered opinions on several aspects of the game, including the forthcoming Ryder Cup march at Le Golf National in September, the re-emergence of Tiger Woods, and whether St Andrews has a long-term future as an Open venue.
He also found a supporter in eight-time major winner Tom Watson, who is on a mission this week to erase the memory of the way he finished his Open Championship career at the Old Course in 2015. “I hope I do a little better this time. My last four shots were a shank and three putts,” recalled the 68-year-old, who also described St Andrews as his favourite golfing destination.
Monty, too, is hoping for a big week at the home of golf after declaring that the seniors’ version of the Claret Jug would represent an achievement that would sit alongside the majority of his many accomplishments.
More interesting were his thoughts on the Ryder Cup, eight years after he led Europe to victory at Celtic Manor.
Contrary to the widely held belief that the Americans will go into the biennial match in France strongly fancied to achieve a first victory on European soil for 25 years – coincidentally Watson was captain at the Belfry in 1993 – Monty strongly fancies the home side to regain the trophy.
“I’m very confident, more so now after the Open victory, because it’s amazing what that does to a team’s mentality,” he said.
“[Rory] McIlroy and [Justin] Rose also came through very well in the end and if you put them together with [Francesco] Molinari’s win, Thomas [Bjorn] is probably looking at the best team that we’ve assembled, almost ever.
“When you look at the new boys coming through, they are not rookies anymore. Alex Noren, Jon Rahm and Tommy Fleetwood are world players and we haven’t had that before.
“Previously, our rookies had to be protected. Now it’s very different. We’ve got great strength and depth, and after four American winners in the majors, Molinari winning will give confidence to the rest.
“He was flawless. Not to drop a shot on that course in the last 37 holes was incredible golf. It was one of the great displays, because with an hour and a half to go, ten people could have won the Open. He played Faldo-esque golf, which is the highest compliment I can pay him.”
Woods was also supreme at times, to the extent that he led briefly on the final day at Carnoustie before eventually sharing sixth place on his Open comeback. But Monty does not doubt that Tiger will add to his haul of 14 majors, a view shared by Watson.
Monty said: “It was his biggest test since he’s come back and he’ll learn from that. He’ll analyse what went wrong and come back stronger the next time he’s in that position.
“He’s not immune to pressure but he’s swinging the club as well as he did in 2000, which was the best we’ve ever seen him, when he won four majors in a row.”
Watson concurred, adding: “It would have been one of the most iconic moments in golf if he had come back and won. But he’ll win a major championship again.”
Responding to suggestions that the Old Course is in danger of being overtaken by the distances modern players hit the ball the pair were also in agreement that golf’s most iconic venue will remain sacrosanct as an Open venue.
Monty said: “There’s only two courses on rota that I feel don’t need the breeze to protect the scoring, Birkdale and Carnoustie. The rest, I think, do. But what they can do here that is unique is they can hide the pins more than most because of the nature of the course.”
Watson added: “I think St Andrews is always going to be there. The R&A is going to let Mother Nature dictate the scores here and they are not disappointed when somebody shoots 61, because they understand the golf course is there for the taking at times.”