It’s a bold statement when you’ve racked up more than 50 professional victories, claimed eight European Tour Order of Merit titles and made eight Ryder Cup appearances. Colin Montgomerie is adamant, though. “I’m playing as well if not better than I ever have,” he insisted heading into the US Senior Open, which starts today at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs.
The big Scot won this event in 2014, shortly after he had claimed his first over-50s major by winning the Senior PGA Championship. He secured the latter prize for a second time in 2015 and is hungry to add to that title haul. His top target this year is trying to win the first Senior Open Championship at St Andrews next month. This week’s event is a close second, though, and he’s in good fettle.
A win – his ninth on the Staysure Tour – in the Shipco Masters in Denmark earlier this month helped put a spring in his step. The day after turning 55 last Saturday, he closed with a 64 to finish tied for third in a Champions Tour event in Wisconsin. Yes, Monty is in the mood to win more senior majors and, what’s more, he’s enjoying his golf more than ever.
“Yes, it’s the highest it’s ever been,” he declared. “There’s less pressure on me to fight for standard of livings for families, to set the family up of whatever it might be. I’m more relaxed and enjoying my golf more. And, as you’ve heard me say many times, when you enjoy something you’re usually quite good at it. I’m enjoying what I’m doing therefore playing as well as ever.
“I know technology’s helped me, don’t get me wrong, balls and clubs and what have you, but I’m playing as well if not better than I ever have. If I’d played like this in the 90s I’d have done as well as I did then. It hasn’t deflated or reduced in any way, you can’t afford to, the standard is so high. You’re playing against Steve Stricker who’s competing and contending in PGA Tour events and majors.”
During his career on the regular Tours, Montgomerie achieved his successes without spending nearly as much time on the practice range as his peers. That’s no longer the case, though. “I’m practising more than I ever have – and I’ve had to,” he added. “In the event in Denmark which I won, it was like a 1990s European Tour event and a few of the guys – Gordon Brand Jr, Peter Baker and Barry Lane – couldn’t believe that after my first round of 71, which was disappointing for me in so many ways, I went to the range.
“They were saying, ‘Monty we’ve never seen you on the range before, what the hell’s going on?’ I said, ‘actually, lads, I do this most days now after my rounds in the US now’ and they replied, ‘sh**, this is serious now’.
“I’ve found that the standard is such that I can’t stand still, I’ve got to improve. Even as I age, I’ve got to get better. Times that I won the Order of Merit every year I felt I had to improve every year to stand still and that’s the same on the Senior Tour as well as on the regular tour.
“As soon as you drop standards, there’s new guys coming through (Ernie Els turns 50 next year and Phil Mickelson becomes a senior in two years’ time) and you’re going to get overtaken. And the standard is so high now that I’ve got to keep going, so I’m practising more than ever.”
Montgomerie is about to see Guy Kinnings, his long-time manager, take up a new post as the European Tour’s deputy chief executive later in the year. It is widely thought that Kinnings, a hugely-respected figure in the game, will eventually take over from Keith Pelley as the circuit’s chief executive.
“It’s a big move for him,” said Montgomerie. “We joined at IMG at the same time and we went through it together, really, over 30 years. Hopefully I helped him and he helped me. We became close friends, he was my best man and I’m godfather to his daughter. So we’re very close.
“He’s the right man for that job. He was thought before Keith Pelley took the job as a possible successor for George O’Grady and, in time, you’ll probably find Guy taking over that role, and the Tour will be better for it.”
l Colin Montgomerie has been working with Loch Lomond Whiskies to create two limited editions – a ‘Single Cask’ and a ‘Colin Montgomerie Limited Edition Single Malt’– to mark next month’s 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie.