Monty Slowly Climbs in Golfs Elite


So were all left to wonder, can Colin Montgomerie do it again at the age of 42? Can he rejoin the scrum at the top of the world rankings at an age when most gents are slowly winding down?
Well, remember, Vijay Singh is 42. So the answer to can he do it is clearly ' yes. The answer to will he do it is ' hes much closer now than he was at the start of the year.
In case you werent yet aware of the news from Europe last weekend, Monty won again after 46 tournaments and 19 long months of futility. His win at the dunhill links propels him all the way into the top 20 among the worlds best swatters as he prepares to play the WCG ' American Express Championship in San Francisco this week.
Colin Montgomerie
Colin Montgomerie reacts after sinking the winning putt on the 72nd hole of the dunhill links championship.
There was a time when Montgomerie was considered among the best in the world, of course. There was a time when he seriously considered making the move to the U.S. tour. But the 21st century has not been terribly kind to him ' Montgomerie finished 28th in the 2003 money race, his worst ever result. Last year, his marriage dissolved after an extended period of turbulence. He played mediocre golf, lets be honest. And thats where he stood as this year began.
This year, though, hes made a conscious effort to get back to where he was. He always has been a superb Ryder Cup competitor, going 19-8-5 since 1991. But this year he finished second to Tiger Woods in the British Open ' the highest he has ever finished in that event, where his next best effort was an eighth-place finish.
He had a notorious lapse of judgment at a tournament in Jakarta in March. He had to abandon his ball in grass beside a bunker as the second round was canceled in a thunderstorm. He reported the ball was lost overnight, causing him to replace it the next day. The ball wound up in a much more favorable position and Monty ended up in a tie for fourth place. Officials exonerated him, but the howls of protest are still reverberating throughout the European Tour today.
Today, though, Montgomerie has climbed to 16th in the world rankings. It pains him to say, but there were times in the past three or four years when he thought the days of winning had passed him by.
Oh, sure, he confessed, then rattled of a few reasons for feeling a little inferior.
The players are improving on this tour beyond belief. They see the rewards available. They see the lifestyle available. The financial reward is huge now on this tour, there's no doubting that. They are practicing harder, they are fitter, they are tougher, they are mental. They bring all of their mental coaches and fitness instructors with them and stuff.
And there's me at 42 having to compete with all of this, and it's nice that I can still do that.
Monty says he believes his best golf is still ahead of him. He may be the only person in the world who thinks he can retool and get back to being among the best four or five in the world. But he insists the world will be surprised.
Now whether I believe it or not, I have to believe it ' OK, he said, lapsing into his somewhat-tortured sentence structure. If I thought my best golf was behind me and all that I've achieved in the past behind me, I would not bother entering golf tournaments, no. No, no. I'll go into other areas of life without beating my head against a brick wall trying to do this job, believe me.
The win Sunday was the most important of his career, he says, more than his 28 European Tour wins, more than any of his high finishes in major championships. After all, when youre not sure if you will ever again play at this level, its terribly important to prove to yourself that you can.
Because all of the wins before, it was a bit of a roller coaster, to be honest with you, said Monty. The seven Orders of Merit just kept rolling along. I wouldn't say it was easy, but it was expected.
And then it stops. And then my life changed dramatically a couple of years ago and I always said to myself, the next win would be the most influential and the most important of my career. And this is it.
He says he no longer is interesting in money titles ' he vaulted into second on the European Order of Merit standings with the win, though he still trails Michael Campbell by more than $200,000. But what he really is playing for the remainder of this year is Ryder Cup points ' even though the Ryder is still almost a year away.
The Ryder Cup points are crucial at this stage, says Montgomerie. I want to play in Ireland along with everybody else on this European Tour. We want to be part of that, the European Tour.
But the thing he covets most, even more than a Ryder Cup berth, is to regain his position as a premiere world player. He decided at the start of this year that that is what he wanted more than anything. And it looks like he just might ' might ' get there.
I gave myself a goal of 25th, and to beat this so far is even remarkable for me. So I'm thrilled about that, yeah. But I had to do something about it. There were two options: I was sliding, I let it slide, or get off one's bum and do something about it.
And I did.
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