Monty It Should be That Difficult

By Derek LawrensonJune 11, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 U.S. OpenEditor's Note: The following is a special feature courtesy LINKS Magazine
 
Colin Montgomerie first thought he had won the U.S. Open in 1992, when Jack Nicklaus came up to him after the Scot had completed his final round at Pebble Beach and said, Congratulations on becoming our national champion.
Montgomerie thought he had won it again at Oakmont in 1994. He led the putting statistics'and every other time he has done that in his career he has always gone home with a trophy.
 
Colin Montgomerie
Colin Montgomerie switched clubs on the 72nd hole last year and that may have cost him his first major. (WireImage)
The third time came at Congressional in 1997, when he played so well that he turned in the low score in two of the four rounds. As he says: Has anyone else ever done that, and not won?
 
And then there was last year, when he holed his Hail Mary putt on the 71st hole, a snaking 60-foot triple-breaker, and split the middle of the fairway with his final drive at Winged Foot. When you hole a one in a thousand putt'his Larry Mize at the 1987 Masters or Bob Tway at the 1986 PGA moment'how can you not think its your time?
 
Heres one fact that tells you everything, Montgomerie says with a rueful grin. There have only been a handful of times in my entire career when I thought Id won a tournament and it didnt happen.
 
Four of them have come at the U.S. Open.
 
Montgomerie knows firsthand that the Open is the most difficult tournament to win. Theres no let-up at the U.S. Open, he says. Every hole is a potential bogey. Look at Oakmont: Even the par 5s are bogeys if youre not careful. So you come off every year feeling mentally whacked.
 
A lot of great players have never won the Open. The list includes Nick Faldo, Greg Norman, Seve Ballesteros and at the very top, Sam Snead.
 
But at least those guys won other majors. Montgomerie, 43, is the only player to finish second five times in the majors'three in the Open'and never win. The Open close calls hurt most because its the tournament that plays to all his strengths. Despite the disappointment of having Nicklaus verbally hand him the trophy in 1992 before first Jeff Sluman then Tom Kite snatched it from him, Montgomerie was quite happy with his third-place finish in his Open debut.
 
I wasnt unhappy finishing third, he says. Totally the opposite. I had fallen in love with the U.S. Open. I thought it was right up my alley.
 
And why not? Montgomerie is straight off the tee, putts well and is remarkably consistent. Hes Hale Irwin with an accent and better eyesight; yet Irwin has won three Opens and Montgomerie is 0 for 14.
 
Thats because no event exposes weaknesses like the Open, and Montgomeries lack of conditioning, fragile concentration and rabbit ears factored in all his subsequent second-place finishes.
 
In 1994, after playing four rounds in stifling heat and tying Ernie Els and Loren Roberts, Montgomerie showed up for the playoff wearing a dark outfit. That was mistake number one, he says. I had run out of clean shirts apart from one with a black tartan pattern. I was sponsored by Pringle, and felt a duty to wear one of their shirts. How would it look if I won the title and wasnt wearing one? Of course, I should have walked into the pro shop and bought a white Oakmont shirt.
 
The other thing that would be different if I had my time over again was that I would be a lot slimmer. If you look at old footage, I was enormous. I just had nothing left to give come the playoff. Montgomerie shot 78 and missed sudden death by four strokes.
 
At the 1997 U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club, Montgomerie arrived as one of the favorites, having won the previous weeks European Tour event by five shots. I was feeling so good about my game that I didnt even know where the practice ground was, he says. I turned up for my first round and thought Id better ask, so I went through the motions before playing. Then I went out, missed three 4-foot putts in the first four holes, and went on to shoot 65. To this day, Phil Mickelson, my playing partner that day, calls it the best round of golf in a major he has ever seen.
 
Montgomerie went to bed that night convinced he would win. He still believes it would have happened but for a rain delay the following day. What happened is that everyone went to the bar, he says. When play resumed I committed the cardinal sin of reacting to a fan who shouted something on the 16th tee. Thats the biggest regret I have in golf. It was not just that I lost concentration and bogeyed the next two holes. It was an incident that cost me years of competing in the U.S. Open.
 
The incident made headlines in the papers, and thats when I started having problems with American crowds. It wasnt until my Ryder Cup performances in 2002 and 2004 earned me respect, and I got sympathy following my divorce around the same time, that it all changed, and I actually started enjoying playing in America again.
 
His positive outlook didnt result in a different outcome last year at Winged Foot. Montgomerie stood in the 18th fairway, 172 yards from the hole, facing a shot that had become known as his stock-in-trade: a mid-iron to a hole cut on the right of the green.
 
If I had to play that shot 100 times, 99 of them would finish 10 feet or less to the left of the flag, he says. What unnerved me was that my playing partner, Vijay Singh, had hooked his ball into a tent, and it took an age to get a ruling. This is no criticism of Vijay, because I would have done the same, but if I could just have walked up and hit my shot I would have won.
 
Instead, I had five minutes to kill, and thats when the doubts crept in. Was it a 6- or 7-iron? In hindsight I should have spent the time swinging a club, keeping my rhythm, and concentrated on making sure I made a full backswing. Instead, when my time came, I was tight, I didnt complete my backswing, and as soon as I hit it I knew I was in trouble.
 
He hit a 7-iron slightly heavy, and instead of hitting it 10 feet left of the hole, he missed the green short right, leading to a double bogey. People dont realize how easy it is to lose the U.S. Open, he says. Look at Mickelson. He was chasing a third major in a row, and one bad swing from him and that all disappeared with a double bogey at the same hole. Look at Padraig Harrington, who needed to finish with three pars to win and had three bogeys.
 
But you wont get any rant from me about its unfairness. It should be that difficult to win the U.S. Open. So Ill come back this year at Oakmont and have
another go. Ive even looked at the future venues and contemplated whether they suit me. Ive not given up hope of cracking the difficulties and finishing the winner.
 
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    Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

    By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

    Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

    Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

    As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

    "That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

    Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

    Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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    Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

    By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

    If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

    Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

    But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

    Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

    Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

    Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

    Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

    Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

    Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

    Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

    Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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    Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

    SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

    Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

    “It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

    Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

    “What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

    Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

    “When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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    Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

    SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

    Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

    Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

    Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.