Colin Montgomerie may be terrified by the prospect of finding himself featuring in a European Tour video surrounded by snakes but, even at 55, the big Scot reckons he possesses enough bite to win on the circuit after a 12-year gap.
He’s certainly not in the field for the 30th staging of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic this week just to make up the numbers and, buoyed by starting his 2019 campaign with a top-10 finish on the Champions Tour in Hawaii at the weekend, is relishing being among six players flying the Saltire at Emirates Golf Club.
Montgomerie believes the Majlis Course, where he produced the “best shot of my career” with a driver off the deck at the 18th in the final round when winning this event in 1996, is one where he can still hold his own against the young guns and aims to prove it.
“I would be disappointed not to finish in the top 60 to make the Race to Dubai,” replied the eight-time European Tour Order of Merit winner to being asked where, as part of an overall assessment of his game, he thought he’d finish if he still played on the circuit rather than teeing up mostly in over-50s events on both sides of the Atlantic. “There’s not a hole out there that I can’t reach. I haven’t got any affliction yet and I can still get the ball around. And I’m competitive and as ambitious as ever.
“Could I win? It would have to be the right course. And, if I was going to select ten courses on the European Tour for me to win on, this would be one of them. There’s no course we go to that’s shorter than the one previous, but, at the same time, this is one of them. Small, tight greens. Tight fairways. That type of course set up would suit me, yeah.”
This is Montgomerie’s 26th appearance in the UAE event and, first and foremost, he’s determined to make amends for a poor display 12 months ago that saw him miss the cut. “My ambition this week goes beyond making the cut,” he added. “It’s got to. It’s a long way to come so, God, I hope I make the cut. Technology is amazing. I’m hitting the ball further now than I ever did. Irons are more forgiving, the ball is staying in the air longer. It’s amazing how technology has given me and a number of players my age another five, ten years, really, playing at this level. I feel I can compete if I can putt well here.”
Montgomerie, who has his son Cameron caddying for him this week, returned to the spot of his wonder shot in 1996 – he was faced with 228 yards into the wind to a green protected by water – to see if he could pull it off again.
“I was asked by Falcon Golf to bring out the club [a Callaway Big Bertha driver] that I used 23 years ago,” he said. “I rummaged around and found it along with its 3-wood partner. They were great clubs, they made me a lot of money, those two clubs. I couldn’t believe putting it next to the big-headed clubs of today how small it was – actually smaller than a 3-wood –and that’s why it was easier to hit off the fairway the way it was.
“Hitting it yesterday, and not making the carry, it proved to me that under the pressure, if it had gone wrong, if it hit out of the heel or the toe or the bottom of the club, it wasn’t making it. So, yeah, it did give me a sense of, that was quite good, I was quite proud of myself.
“Every time anyone asks me what’s the best shot you’ve hit, it’s a very easy answer: That one.”
Montgomerie’s appearance on the European Tour comes a few days after the release of a video showing some of the circuit’s leading lights – they were dubbed the ‘Content Committee’ – trying to come up with viral content to promote the sport suggested ‘Monty’s Pythons’, where Montgomerie talked about the biggest snakes on tour.
“I’m very worried, actually, very concerned, that this becomes reality, because my one great fear in life is snakes,” said Montgomerie, letting out a hearty chuckle.
“So there’s a bit of an issue there, isn’t there, really. I spoke to Henrik Stenson and Tommy Fleetwood [two of the committee members] and they want to take this forward, so good luck to them. I hope they enjoy it!”