Colin Montgomerie: Living Life Large

Colin Montgomerie had a great first day at the U.S. Senior Open. They’re playing in Edmond, Oklahoma, on one of Pete Dye’s early courses, Bent Tree National, and, for a course set up by the USGA, Montgomerie tore it up. He has a 1-shot lead after shooting a 6-under 65 and he got there by hitting 11 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens. His iron play was so good, he only needed 27 putts. But he didn’t really keep track of all of that, he was just playing, the most reliably productive way to score:

“Well, I think, as you say, there are 16 greens out of 18. I didn’t realize that, and 11 fairways out of 14. I suppose that’s quite good stats if you want to look at the stats. 27 putts is — well, you have to be 27 putts to score 65. My iron shots were good, but you’ve still got to get the reward, and the reward is by holing those putts off good iron shots. To have eight birdies out here on a USGA course is good. There is no denying that. To have eight birdies around any golf course is good, especially the USGA setup for a major championship. Yes, I’m very happy.”

All of that is a good omen for Monty, who finally notched his first U.S. win at the Senior PGA Championship in May. Although the weather played an ominous factor in the early going, it gave him a chance to flash his sly humor: 

“Yeah, it messed up my whole day, really. I would have shot 62 otherwise (laughter). Not really, no. I mean, I was surprised we were out so long, to be honest. It was black really this morning. You could have called us in for light; never mind lightning or rain. It was so dark out there that it was eerie in many ways. It was like Armageddon, you know. It was weird. So the siren was expected. I was surprised at the length of the delay. It was only an hour, really.”

And it looks like weather will be a big factor going forward; it was in the high 80s on Thursday, but it’s going into the 100s over the next three days:

“We had our coolest day, which is still very hot (smiling). So, yeah, it’s going to be near 100 the next three days so concentration levels will be difficult to maintain for everybody out there, not just myself. I look forward to the challenge of trying to compete against the rest of the field, the golf course, which is superb, and also the weather conditions which are very foreign to myself and most competitors, to be honest. We don’t usually play in 100 degrees. It’s going to be interesting over the next three days.”

But he has two things going for him, he’s slimmed down from his former physique and he’s had experience playing in hot, steamy places:

“Well, my physical conditioning is obviously up to scratch, there is no question about that. (Smiling.) Good question, really. I think that it is going to be a physical examination out there. I have done well in the heat over the past. You know, we play in Asia where it’s very warm in the Singapore, Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur areas. It’s in extreme heat there. I’ve done okay there. We did okay in Pittsburgh back in ’94 when it was a record heat of 100 degrees. I was unfortunately 20 years younger. But at the same time, I don’t mind it. I don’t mind it.”

“No, you get around. It’s part of the job, and the rewards are so great at the end of it that you keep going, believe me. You look at the end result and you look at the rewards available at the end of a championship. I’ve got a week off when I get home. I’m flying home from Dallas on Monday and back to Scotland. I’ve got a week off before the next major, the Senior Open down in Wales. There is no problems with giving it 110% over the next three days.”

On the other hand, that may have been a little whistling past the graveyard because later, he expressed some trepidation:

“So it’s a matter of being patient and trying to play somewhere near the way I did today. It will be difficult. I’m not denying that. It will be a struggle. It’s going to be 100 degrees the next three days, and it’s going to be difficult, no denying. But at the same time the reward are great enough to warrant that. So I look forward to it.”

But on Thursday, he was in full flight and basking in the good life:

“Well, good question. I was patient. I was relaxed. We had a good time. Rocco Mediate and Tom Lehman was a good pairing. I was happy with the pairing we had, the three were playing together. We played a lot together over the first year of my Champions Tour life. Relaxed and patient, really, I suppose. But the statistics, you know, add up, I suppose. 16 greens out of 18. Not bad statistics, really. And then 11 fairways out of 14. You’d take that. So, yeah, just a good run of golf, a good, solid round of golf today.”

And finally, I found this interesting. He was asked what score it would take to win the Open and he shared a formula I’d never heard anywhere else:

“Oh, goodness me. I have no idea. I have no idea. Normally what happens, and if you’re a betting man, what happens normally in championships is in four-round events, if you look at the first-round leader and you double it and you add 2, that’s usually your winning score. Now, I would take 14-under right now, but that’s normal. This isn’t normal because it’s a major and I am going to play in intense heat over the next few days. I would expect it to be less than that, but certainly more than where I am right now.”

Monty has done a lot of good for himself with his stints doing the Golf Channel commentary. We’ve gotten to see his, shall we say, less petulant side. His humor and good cheer have been more in evidence, a condition that frequently comes to the fore as we age. He wears it well, the reason, no doubt, that he has become a more sympathetic character.

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