24 Apr 2018

Monty on a Mission with Senior Open in his sights

It might have taken him the length of his career, but Colin Montgomerie believes he has figured out the intricacies of the Old Course at St Andrews and is ready to mount a challenge for a first Senior Open title this week.

“I think it was in 2005, when I finished second in The Open to Tiger Woods and later won the Dunhill Links, that I finally got to know my way around the Old Course,” said Montgomerie. “It took all four rounds in 1990 on my Open debut, all four rounds in 1995 and 2000 and finally 2005 to find out how to get around here and actually score.”

The leading Scottish senior, now 55, has been gearing up his year to this point and he’s determined to add The Senior Open Presented by Rolex to his illustrious CV.

“When it was announced that we were going to play The Senior Open at the Old Course, that became the focus of what I’ve been working towards.

“That’s been the target my season. My goal has been to prepare properly for this event,” he said. “All the big-name Americans are here and they’re all looking forward to it. Everyone wants to play and do well – especially me!”

Montgomerie, who won three Senior Majors in the United States in a 12-month spell five years ago, is reunited with his caddy, Alastair McLean, who hails from Fife and brings more Old Course knowledge to the table.

“Alastair is there to stop me messing it up, really,” said Montgomerie. “It’s very much a team effort to get round the Old Course and between the two of us, we know it as well as anyone.

“The first three days here are all about getting in position to win on Sunday, and to do nothing stupid. Keep the ball where it should be, don’t be short if the pin is cut to the front, just common sense things.

“In this game the idea is to come off the course not having done anything silly, and that’s where Alastair comes in. He’ll stop me from doing something stupid!”

The former Ryder Cup Captain is keen to keep his game sharp, knowing that more and more players are reaching 50 and joining the Staysure Tour and the PGA Tour Champions. “I practise as much as I ever did,” he said. “I won at the Shipco Masters promoted by Simon’s Golf Club in June and the practice range after the first round was like an old European Tour event.

“There was Gordon Brand Jr, Peter Baker, Barry Lane and several others. The standards are so high that I can’t stand still. As soon as you drop your standards there are new guys coming in and you’re going to get overtaken.

“I’m playing against the likes of Steve Stricker, who is competing in PGA Tour events as well as Majors. Darren Clarke is coming into the Seniors this year, Jim Furyk and Ernie Els next year – the more the merrier as far as I’m concerned.

“It’s great for Senior golf and the standard is so high that they’re all shocked at how good it is when they get out here – and I was no different.”

Having secured his ninth Staysure Tour title in June in Denmark, Montgomerie is feeling good about the rest of the season.

“It felt absolutely superb to win,” said Montgomerie, who won by three shots from Paul Eales and Barry Lane.  “It means as much as any of my wins on the European Tour – there were 60 guys starting and I came out on top of the pack.

“That has given me a lot of confidence to go forward for the rest of the year.”

Montgomerie is aiming to right the wrongs of 2015 when he had The Senior Open in his sights only to falter down the stretch at Sunningdale and finish third. “I was two ahead with eight holes to play,” he said. “All I had to do was play a sensible back nine and I didn’t do it,” he reflected. “Finishing third was disappointing and so now The Senior Open has become very important for me.

“I feel like there should be something in the ‘win’ column, Senior-Open wise, so I’m looking forward to competing again and, hopefully, putting it right.”

One of the most successful golfers of his generation, with 31 European Tour titles, eight Order of Merit victories and a stunning record in The Ryder Cup – both as Captain and player, Montgomerie knows that a Senior Open trophy would fit perfectly on his mantelpiece.

What better place to fulfil his ambition and win than at the Home of Golf?

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