Because Colin Montgomerie has been such a lightning rod over the years and seems to have now settled into a more collegial way of being on the Champions Tour, I was very interested in getting him to compare notes on his lack of success on the PGA Tour versus his blossoming on the Champions Tour.
And when I wandered up to the range around 11am, he and Kenny Perry were the only guys on the range. Michael Allen came up and I was able to say hello for one of my Monday qualifying buddies who is a years-long friend of his. But I kept my eye on Montgomerie.
And, lo and behold, he finished the last of his warm-down wedges, fiddled with some new head covers and started walking my way. And out of nowhere, I got poached. One of the young producers for PGA Tour productions came from behind a tent, walked up to him and asked if he could sit for a television piece. He said yes, but could she please drive him over to the equipment trailer in her cart to get some new grips on his wedges. And off they went.
When she got back after dropping him off, I asked if she minded if I hung around her set to see if I could get him after she was done. No problem, she said.
Montgomerie eventually wanders back and their interview begins. And then my ship came in. In the middle of his interview, the club repair guy from the trailer wandered up, quietly leaned the wedges against the cart and whispered to me, “Make sure he gets those?”
And so when his interview was done, there I was standing with his wedges in my hands — to his delight — and after briefly explaining who I was and telling him about the blog, asked him if he had time for another quick interview.
“Sure, I’m on my way over to the putting green; walk with me.”
“Oh, a walk-and-talk?” I said, just to let him know that I was at least experienced enough to know what he meant.
But we didn’t get far. We only got to the cart path at the back of the range before — after just the first three questions — he was completely engaged with the premise of the interview and we stood there on the bank and chatted as the world went by.
OK, so, Colin Montgomerie here at Desert Mountain, Cochise course for the Schwab Cup. Colin, as I told you, I spent nine years out on the Champions Tour trying to Monday qualify, get through Q-School unsuccessfully.
You had the same sort of experience trying to win a tournament on the regular Tour.
I write a daily golf mastery blog that looks at, not so much the what, but how players do what they do.
I see. Okay.
Can you comment a little on how you were able to deal with all those years and not being able to get beyond that mental barrier. Can you describe the mental barrier?
Oh, right. Well, very quickly. There wasn’t much involved that way. I just had to come back and keep trying. And put yourself in that position again and again and again. And one day, the door’s going to open. That’s all I was trying to do. I managed to finish runner up five times in majors and every time it got tougher. Whereby, is this door going to open or is it not going to open?
And eventually it has on the Senior Tour possibly, but at the same time, it isn’t easy. You know, it could get to you if you are less of an individual mentally, you could suffer. And it could affect you for a couple of weeks, months, years within your game.
I just came back, I came back, and I love the competition enough, I love the competition enough to say to myself, “I’m going to put myself in that position again.” I want to put myself in that position again. And if it doesn’t work, “Okay fine.” I shake the hand of the guy that’s won and walk away and find out — and try and do something regarding what is? What is lacking?
Four of the five majors I lost were not my fault. I felt someone else had won them.
And you have to congratulate the fellow. Winged Foot was my fault. I messed up there in 2006 at Winged Foot.
Is that the one where you were left with just a black outfit on Monday? (laughing)
Uh, no. That was at Oakmont. That was at Oakmont. That was another mistake, but we don’t have time for all the mistakes (laughing).
We don’t have all day long (laughing).
We don’t have time for all the mistakes (laughing).
No, but it’s just a matter of loving the competition enough, wanting to put yourself back in that position. Every time I flew over for a major from Europe, I was anxious and willing and wanting enough to put myself in that position.
How many regular Tour events did you play in during those years or was it all majors?
It was mostly majors. I played, what, fifteen years, four majors a year. So, three of which were in America and, so, forty-five majors and played about seventy-odd events in all and didn’t come out on top in any stroke play event. That one down here at Grayhawk, Accenture Match Play — it was Anderson Consulting at the time — and I won there. But it’s a matter of putting yourself in the position again and again and again. And willing, willing to come out second or third knowing that the door will open once in a while.
Tom Watson spent ages before he won. It doesn’t happen to everybody at that time.
I know. I know.
Yeah, I can understand your own situation. And it’s not easy. You know, but you put yourself, if you spent nine years, you put yourself in that position again and again and again, as well.
Yes. Well I was committed to doing it because I was trying to demonstrate that you could accomplish anything you dreamed of if you knew how to go about it…
Right. Good. Good.
So it was all about Mastery and Transformation and being committed to the process.
Right. Yes. True.
So, can you describe a little bit about how when you’re in the heat and under the gun and you’re coming down the home stretch. Does your mental frame of mind, was it any different then than it is now?
You tend to get a bit more tense, you don’t tend to breathe the same. Breathing’s very important, you have to breathe properly under those tense situations. Breathing is important.
But is there ever a flicker of doubt that you’ll be able to pull it off.
No, no, no. There’s never a doubt.
So you’re in it until the end and if it works out or it doesn’t work out…
No, I never got that way. I breathe properly; I didn’t get to the stage where I didn’t believe that it was going to succeed. Others succeeded on top of me, fine. But I never got to a stage where I didn’t feel that I couldn’t succeed. No. Which was most important.
Exactly. That’s critically important.
That’s what makes you show up every time.
And now this [indicating Champions Tour players hitting balls on the range] is much more relaxed…
Much more relaxed. But still very competitive.
…same kind of pressures?
Oh very much so. I’m playing against the guys I used to play against; the Bernard Langers of this world and the Freddie Couples, two of my great, great peers in the past. And it’s great to have this opportunity of playing against them still to a very, very high level of golf. A very high level of golf. The standard out here is much higher than people give credit for. And the competition is [much higher]. And therefor, you’ve got to go back to what we learned in our youth to bring out here.
Can I share a quick story with you about how good the competition is out here?
We were qualifying in Naples the year that Morris Hatalsky came out…
So he came out in the morning wave and one guy shot 65 and Hatalsky and two other guys shot 66…
…and so he went back to the hotel to wait on the afternoon wave…
So he comes back and all the afternoon wave was through except the last group. And the last group comes in and shoots 62, 63, 64 and the 65 from the morning is in and Morris is down the road with a 66.
There you go. That’s what it’s like. That’s what it’s like.
So that’s exactly what it’s like.
You’ve got to keep going. You can’t stay on five under, six under round of golf and expect to stop for the last five holes. You’ve got to keep that round going; seven under, eight under, nine under. You’ve got to keep it going, because the guys behind you are doing the same thing.
Yup. Exactly. So you’ve been very gracious, thanks so much. Appreciate it. Good luck.
Not at all.