Colin Montgomerie says golf faces testing times after lockdown

Colin Montgomerie with the trophy after his most recent victory, the Invesco QQQ Championship on the Champions Tour last November. Picture: Stan Badz/PGA TOUR via Getty ImagesColin Montgomerie with the trophy after his most recent victory, the Invesco QQQ Championship on the Champions Tour last November. Picture: Stan Badz/PGA TOUR via Getty Images
Colin Montgomerie with the trophy after his most recent victory, the Invesco QQQ Championship on the Champions Tour last November. Picture: Stan Badz/PGA TOUR via Getty Images
Scot missing the game and his family during coronavirus

Colin Montgomerie, one of the most competitive golfers in the game’s history, is trying to keep himself motivated by hitting balls into a newly-erected practice net in the back garden of his London home.

“I hit 50 balls every two hours,” he said during one of his breaks. “I do that about five times a day, so I am hitting 249 balls more than I usually hit (laughing).”

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The eight-time European Tour Order of Merit winner and eight-time Ryder Cup player, though, makes no secret of the fact he’s finding lockdown life tough, having been used to travelling here, there and everywhere during a professional career spanning more than 30 years. “You get out of bed in the morning and you wonder why you have bothered,” he confessed in an exclusive interview with The Scotsman.

“Bloody hell, it’s dragging on now, isn’t it? But I understand, of course, why they have to 
do it.”

As hundreds of people in the UK continue to lose their lives from Covid-19 and thousands of others feel the financial pinch due to the ensuing chaos from the pandemic, the 56-year-old describes himself as one of the “lucky” ones.

“I’ve got money saved,” he said. “But I feel for others that aren’t in that position and are just having to grin and bear it at the moment.”

By the sounds of things, the current crop of European Tour players will also face a sort of grin and bear it situation once the circuit is up and running again. In an email to members, chief executive Keith Pelley has said they should expect a change in prize funds as “tough measures” are implemented in the short and long term.

“Keith has been very fair and very honest and I respect him for being open with his membership,” said Montgomerie, a 31-time winner on the tour. “He sends emails out to all the players and I still get them being a member of the tour. And he has been very open, very honest and very fair about the current situation. There is no question it is going to be difficult. Look, it will not be the same when we come back. No, it will not. And players have no option.

“I feel there is a total reset coming for a number of sports, including golf. It’s going to be a reset on three things. The first is individual sponsorship, which is hard for players to a) get and b) keep. The company days type of deal is going to be more difficult in these times and also the prize money. The prize money we are playing for will reduce, there is no question about that.

“It’s a reset. Now, if we are talking about a reset 10 years or 20 years back, who knows, but it is going to be really difficult. Yeah, it is. The days of playing for $7 million in the Italian Open will be gone, yeah. I’m not sure about the situation in America and Donald Trump is certainly expressing optimism about the economy bouncing back there. We’ll just need to wait and see.”

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Montgomerie said he’d been hit by a thought as he used some of the free time on his hands at the moment to polish up some of the trophies from a glittering career, the most recent of 54 professionals wins worldwide having been landed in the Invesco QQQ Championship on the Champions Tour last November.

“At the moment, you feel glad you had done it rather than having to do it,” he admitted. “The new normal might be very different for the next five years, never mind just one. For instance, are you going to go up and shake someone’s hand the way you used to? I don’t think you are. How are you going to feel sitting on aeroplanes with lots of people around you? It is going to change everything.”

Around this time of the year, Montgomerie is normally starting to clock up the miles as he drives from one tournament to the next on the Champions Tour in the US. Last week, he was due to be in Georgia for the Mitsubishi Electric Classic and next up would have been the Insperity Invitational in Texas.

But the over-50s circuit, like all the other main tours around the world, is in shutdown for the time being.

“I think we’ve had seven cancelled and two postponed. It’s a shame,” said the Scot.

“Our Senior PGA has been cancelled, our US Senior Open has been cancelled. They are trying to find a new spot for the Senior Open at Sunningdale, but I have a feeling they will try to wait to keep that tied in with The Open at Royal St George’s next year.

“That would be the three main majors gone. The Senior Players hasn’t gone yet and neither has the Regions Tradition. It could be a short season and it will be a case of thinking, ‘get over this one and look forward to starting again in 2021’, to be honest. It’s almost at that stage already, really.”

Montgomerie, a lifelong Leeds United fan from his days being raised in Yorkshire when his father, James, was the managing director of Fox’s Biscuits, was saddened by the recent death of Norman Hunter, an Elland Road legend. “I actually met him for the first time on Boxing Day last year when I went to the Preston North End game with my father and brother,” he said. “He was an absolutely charming man and was part of the furniture at Leeds.”

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While he has no real idea when he’ll be back playing competitive golf again, Montgomerie revealed he is hoping the government lockdown regulations have been relaxed in time for him to make a trip to Troon in the summer to help his father James, a former secretary of Royal Troon, celebrate his 90th birthday.

“It is difficult. I’m stuck down here in London and he’s in Troon,” he said. “But here’s hoping that in the first week in June I can go up and see him on his birthday. I might have to stand at the window, but at least I’d be able to see him on that special day.”

Minutes after our telephone conversation ended, Montgomerie was back at that net hitting another 50 balls.

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