TWENTY-SIX years after first dipping his toe into professional golf waters, Colin Montgomerie is looking forward to being a “rookie” for the second time in his career later this week.
Fresh from turning 50 yesterday, the eight-times European No 1 flies out to America today ahead of the US Senior Players Championship, which starts at Fox Chapel in Pittsburgh on Thursday.
It’s an exciting new chapter for Montgomerie, who chalked up 31 victories on the European Tour but has not tasted success since the European Open at The K Club in 2007.
“I think golf is the only sport that you get the chance to start again and I’m looking forward to another career,” he said, having secured a place in this week’s Champions Tour event through his induction to the Golf Hall of Fame last month. “I’m under no illusion as to how good the standard is. My good friend, Bernhard Langer, is dominating senior golf right now and all credit to him, especially as he is coming up to 56 years of age in August.
“Then, of course, there’s Fred Couples, Kenny Perry, Tom Lehman – I could go on and on. There’s a great set of players and they will take a bit of beating.
“But, if I can come in and challenge them, I think they will enjoy that and so will I and, hopefully, all of the spectators will, too.”
His first appearance in the over-50s ranks on this side of the Atlantic will be next month’s Senior Open at Royal Birkdale, where Couples will be defending the title he landed at Turnberry last summer.
“It’s about time I won a major championship, so let’s hope that one might just be in the offing,” added Montgomerie, who finished runner-up in five regular majors.
“But, if not, I will still love the competition of it. Competition, more than my love for golf, has kept my hunger going and I’m not ready to stop competing.
“I’ve played recently with guys who are younger than my children! You say: ‘Hang on a minute, this isn’t quite a level playing field’. Suddenly I’ll be the youngest, playing against guys like Bernhard, who is six years older than me. I’ll be a rookie, and therefore hopefully in an advantageous position. I’ve been playing against guys who are 23, 24 years old and they are hitting the ball a mile, so it’s about time that parity came along.”
On his return from America, the 2010 Ryder Cup-winning captain will head to East Lothian next Tuesday to try to qualify for the Open Championship at Muirfield before teeing it up in the over-50s version in Lancashire.
“It’s great that the R&A, along with the European Senior Tour, have decided to go on some of our great links courses and I’m looking forward to playing at Birkdale.
“I’ve played there in three Opens in 1991, 1998 and 2008, when Padraig Harrington won, and now I’m looking forward to trying to contend in a Senior Open.”