Listening to Colin Montgomerie covering the U.S. Open on the Golf Channel, we sort of got a sense that his 50th birthday was nearing and we all knew that meant he was at least eligible to make a run at the Champions Tour. But I never heard mention of when and what his schedule might be.
So out of the blue, I stumbled across Vartan Kupleian’s, “Montgomerie set to make Champions Tour debut,” writing about Monte’s initial foray onto the Champions Tour’s Players Championship. He is in Pittsburgh as you read this at the Fox Chapel Golf Club readying for Thursday’s first round. He’ll be paired with Bernhard Langer and David Frost, two old friends from his European Tour days.
This should be quite interesting because he hasn’t been playing a lot of competitive golf of late. He’s played in 7 events this year and made 2 cuts, both outside the top 25. In 2012, he played in 18 European Tour events and made 10 cuts, one top 10 and nothing else inside the top 25. There is a rhythm to being competitive in professional golf and this wouldn’t be it.
On the other hand, he has been doing a lot of television and in the words of the inimitable Yogi Berra, “You can observe a lot just by watching.” Probably the best example of that was Jim Colbert. He spent a number of years on the ground and in the booth at Champions Tour events and it was a complete player who arrived when he made his debut on his 50th birthday. He talked about being able to watch the ups and downs of all the great players that he was never able to see when he was playing the Tour. Oh, he played with them all, he just didn’t get to see them all on the same day in their best and worst moments. Television work did that for him.
We also have in Monte a Hall of Fame player with 8 European Tour Order of Merits to his credit and 41 professional victories. And that doesn’t even begin to take into account his central role in 8 Ryder Cups where he never lost a singles match or his captaincy of the winning team at Celtic Manor in 2010. There is little in golf that compares to the pressure of the Ryder Cup; that will surely be a tempering by fire as indelible as any sword.
The knock on Monte in terms of the completeness of his record is the fact that he never won in the United States or the British Open. But did you know that he finished 2nd in six of the biggest events in golf: U.S. Open (3 times), British Open, PGA Championship, the Players Championship?
Kupelian quotes him as saying:
My game is in good order. The bag of clubs is good, the equipment is okay. I’m just looking forward to having an opportunity of competing on more of a level playing field. You know, this is what it is. A lot of sport is age related and I’m fortunate I’m playing against guys that hit the ball a mile now and I would like to get back to normality where I can at least compete off the tee with some of the older guys, so I look forward to it.
The great Lee Trevino had that same point of view when he turned 50. He couldn’t wait to get away from the “flat bellies.” In fact, he sent flowers to Barbara Nicklaus every week that Jack didn’t come out on the Champions Tour. (That all ended with Jack’s debut in the 1990 Tradition at Desert Mountain which he won.)
So all in all, there’s ample evidence that Monte has more than just the “right stuff,” he’s got hard-core championship chops. And now that he’s the new kid on the block — the youngest player on the Champions Tour — that could give him an additional edge as he tries to find his way on his new Tour…even if he has to get a few tournaments under his belt to be effective.
He’s such a character in the game, I think we’ll all have one eye cocked his way.