Around 20 miles west, golf’s equivalent of chart-toppers from the 80’s and 90’s, including Colin Montgomerie, Ernie Els and Darren Clarke, are turning the clock back in the $2.75 million Senior Open Presented by Rolex on the King’s Course at Gleneagles.
After a drookit end to the penultimate circuit, home favourite Montgomerie is in the mix as he chases a fourth over-50s’ major but first in this event, having come close in both 2014 and 2015, when finishing second then third at Royal Porthcawl and Sunningdale respectively.
Fuelled by Jelly Babies, the Scot signed off with three straight birdies to card a 68 for a six-under-par total. He sits three shots off the lead, shared by Englishman Paul Broadhurst and Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke, heading into what is shaping up to be a cracker of a final round.
Broadhurst, the 2016 winner at Carnoustie, stepped up his bid for a repeat success with a 66, which moved him alongside Clarke, who had stretched his two-shot overnight lead to three after getting to 10-under after ten holes before spluttering for the first time with back-to-back bogeys and having to settle for a 69.
Kiwi Steven Alker, who won the Senior PGA Championship in May, is in the hunt for more major glory after carding a 66 to sit two behind the leaders alongside American Jerry Kelly (67), with US Senior Open champion Padraig Harrington and Ernie Els in a group with Montgomerie after matching 69s. Four-time winner Bernhard Langer (70) is not out of the equation either on five-under.
In the company of Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez for the third day running, Montgomerie reeled off nine straight pars going out before following a birdie-4 at the tenth with back-to-back bogeys. He’d finished birdie-birdie on Friday and wore a smile as wide as Glendevon after going one better on this occasion.
“All happened in half an hour, really,” he said before revealing the part a favourite Bassetts brand had played. “My caddie and I were talking to Pádraig Harrington about Jelly Babies and we decided to eat Jelly Babies on the back nine,” added Montgomerie.
“The best food for everything, apparently, so I thought, ‘oh, he's won a few majors so we thought we would do the Jelly Baby trick today. And, wow, the Jelly Babies worked. So we're off into the Co-op in Auchterarder to buy a load of Jelly Babies to keep us going for tomorrow because the weather is going to be iffy tomorrow. So we'll see how we go.”
Does he have a favourite colour when it comes to those Jelly Babies? “I avoid the darker ones,” he declared. “I like the reds, the yellows and the oranges. One birdie for each one, perfect!”
After having Alastair McLean at his side for most of his career, Montgomerie is now enjoying having another Scot, Jeff Brighton, on his bag. “My caddie is great,” said the nine-time European Tour No 1. “He lives in Girvan and used to work at Turnberry. His first job was for one of the Korean girls in the Women’s Open at Turnberry and thought ‘I can do this’.
“He was Bronte Law’s caddie here in the (2019) Solheim Cup and was on the LPGA for many years. He was head hunted through Laura Davies and Vicky Cuming at IMG and a few of the other girls said he was great and here he is. Hopefully he’s enjoying it, as I am.”
Thirty years ago, Montgomerie was denied a Scottish Open title triumph on the King’s Course by Peter O’Malley as the Australian covered the last five holes in seven-under-par. Does he feel this place owes him?
“It’s funny,” he replied to that. “I spoke to Ewen Murray, the commentator, yesterday and he said to me ‘this course owes you one’. Nobody owes me anything. But, if I can do what Peter O’Malley did 30 years ago here the last five holes, yeah I could win.
“I shot 65 that day and he shot 62, so it’s on if you can get it going, but the weather is to be inclement tomorrow. I’ve got half a chance and at 59-years-old - I’m in my 60th year now - this is alright.
“The rhythm (of his swing) hasn’t changed. The clubhead speed isn’t what it was and it would be super if I could find another ten yards in the air. But, hey, what the hell. I said at the start of the week, I wanted to contend and not just compete. And we're beginning to think we're contending.”
Regular events on both the Chanmpions Tour and European Legends Tour are 54-holers, but the senior majors are all over the full distance. “I prefer the four rounds,” said Montgomerie, smiling. “After nine years, I’ve never really got to grips with three rounds, to be honest.”
On a day when Alex Cjeka took pride of place with a 64 that catapulted him up 50 spots into joint-15th, Andrew Oldcorn carded a 67 that contained five birdies to sit on one-under, the same mark as Paul Lawrie after a lost ball that led to a 7 at the 17th left him signing for a 69. Qualifier Scott Henderson, the other Scot to make the cut, sits on five-over after a 75.