Its Monty Again - Is He Serious This Time

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Weve been here before, you know. Colin Montgomerie gets hot for one or two days and wins a tournament in Asia. He will get excited the next week. Then ' poof! ' its gone all the hard work suddenly scratched, the optimism bursts, and hes right back where he started. One has to wonder if his train has already left the station with him still standing on the platform.
 
Sunday, it was in Singapore. Monty started the day at the Caltex Masters four shots off the lead. But then he charged through the ranks with a 65 and won by three. In so doing, he leaped nine places up the World Rankings to a spot inside the top 50, becoming eligible to play in this weeks Players Championship.
 
It sounds a little like the same ol Monty. But ' there are a few eyebrow-arching signs that maybe this isnt the same star-crossed guy. After all, this is the man that has finished in the top 16 in every tournament this year. This is the same man who beat Nick Price and Stewart Cink at the Accenture Match Play event at LaCosta.
 
Montgomerie, of course, led the European Tour in money earned for seven straight seasons in the 90s. Twice he lost in playoffs for major championships, once in the U.S. Open, once in the PGA Championship.
 
But it isnt the 90s anymore. Standout performances in that decade are long gone. Now, at age 40, he has to do it in 2004. Montgomerie noted all this Sunday.
 
This means an awful lot to me - it means confidence. I lost it last year and I have it back now,' he said. 'I know I can do this and I can keep doing this.
 
'I know I am good enough to perform and it's always nice when you prove that to yourself. I hadn't won on the European Tour for almost a year-and-a-half and it's a long time.
 
It was only a month ago, at the Accenture, that he wasnt sure if he ever would see a Monty victory celebration again. So much has happened to him in the last five years. He last won the European money title in 1999. Hes had a series of incidents with boorish fans in America. He has suffered physically with a bad back. He has suffered marital strife. But he has not achieved the same level of play that he last did in 99 when he won the Order of Merit.
 
Yeah, last year was particularly bad, and I dropped out of the league, if you like, he said at LaCosta before the tournament began.
 
Over the last two years ' Im not complaining about it, Im not going, God, I should be higher (than 57th) ' no. I just have to address the situation and do something about it. I think its actually fair. Im about that, unfortunately.
 
Montgomerie was No. 2 or No. 3 in the world behind Greg Norman for much of the mid- to late-90s. He actually had a chance to be No. 1 in the summer of 97 after he won the Irish Open. The following week he played in the Scottish Open in Loch Lomond. Had he won the Scottish and Norman simultaneously missed the cut in America, Monty would have been No. 1.
 
Of course, it didnt happen.
 
He didnt miss the cut, sighed Monty, I didnt win, and the gap widened. And then a Mr. Woods entered the fray, stopped everything.
 
Montgomerie actually has won an event somewhere in the world every year since 1993. Last year it was the Macaw Open. In the world-class arena, he has been competitive mainly in the Ryder Cup. In the 2002 edition, he was unbeaten, posting a 4-0-2 record.
 
Last year the back was a mystifying problem, though. This year he has changed clubs. And all the while, the years kept ticking by, one by one by one
 
The constant world travel that the European Tour subjects one to has taken its toll ' though Monty disputes that. Australia, Asia, South Africa, the Middle East - as well as Europe - are all waypoints which comprise the tour. Montgomerie has played them all, on a yearly basis. So many frequent flier miles does neither the back, nor the golf, any good.
 
For example, since the start of the year, he has been the same old globetrotter, going from South Africa to Malaysia to the Match Play in California to the tournament in Dubai. And from there he continued on to Singapore.
 
But it just wasnt just Dubai-to-Singapore. It was Dubai, THEN to Bahrain for two days of business, then home to London for a day or two, then off to Singapore.
 
And then ' this!
 
This justifies all that trouble. People thought I was mad coming over here. After Dubai, I went home and had to come out here again. It's very warm and I don't seem to mind the heat. It justifies all the trouble of having to travel around the world,' said Montgomerie.
 
He was at it again this week, of course. He spent the night at his home in Surry, England, before continuing to Florida Tuesday for the Players.
 
Is there cause for optimism? Of course there is, he says.
 
Im as ambitious as ever, Monty insists. I still want it as much, and I dont feel the age is a factor. My back is fine now. Theres no worries there. Ive exercised well over the winter months and Im fine in that way, so theres no worries.
 
Montgomerie is ebullient again. His mood is bright now, his worries are gone. Er, for the moment, at least.
 
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