Hawk's Nest: Love lost, but plenty gained this week


A word to the wise: If Colin Montgomerie accepts your invitation to play in the member-guest this summer, you might want to warn your opponents about Monty’s antics when things slow to a crawl. The big fella does not like to wait. Unlike most tour pros, he has virtually no tolerance for tortoises, and that includes Bernhard Langer, a man whom Montgomerie has been competing against for more than a quarter-century.

“Bernhard is different,” Monty assessed after the third round of the Senior PGA Championship. “You have to adjust your own pace. There’s no point in playing faster to make up for someone who isn’t as fast.”

Of course, Monty’s idea of an adjustment isn’t the same as yours or mine. He goes into a tizzy, or at the very least, he gets quite demonstrative. His body language suggests that someone recently dumped a nest full of hornets down his trousers. As Langer goes to take a third look at that 7-footer for par, there is no letup. Have you ever seen a 9-year-old boy who really, really needs to use the bathroom?

When it’s finally his turn, Montgomerie barely comes to a standstill before slamming his putt into the back of the hole. He turns and heads to the next tee in that lumbering march of his, looking a lot more like a guy on his way to shooting 85 than leading the tournament.

I find his behavior rather hysterical, especially when he gets to the media center and talks about Langer in almost reverential terms. I’ve seen Monty lose the U.S. Open because he came unglued. I’ve also watched him dominate Ryder Cups, where the pace of play is often glacial, holing everything he stood over and maybe missing one fairway each day.

All these years later, I still can’t figure the dude out. How can such a brat be such an outstanding player? Would he have been even better if he’d exercised a little more composure? In victory and defeat, Montgomerie is the puzzle no one ever managed to solve, and in that respect, few players in the modern era have been more fascinating.

AND JUST LIKE that, golf’s two best young players turn their seasons around, winning tournaments six time zones and five hours apart. The Adam Scott-Jason Dufner playoff at Colonial was ultra-riveting, but Rory McIlroy’s triumph at Wentworth was a much bigger deal – over a premium Euro field in his first start since breaking up with fiancee Caroline Wozniacki.

Really? That’s all it took? I know McIlromantic is sincerely bummed out about losing his steady, but it’s hard not to read between the lines on this one. Distractions can be a serious problem for a 25-year-old kid with two major titles and more money than he knows what to do with.

From the very start, Tiger Woods had an ample support staff to handle anything that didn’t involve striking a golf ball. Not that McIlreality is doing his own laundry, but there are plenty of signs that indicate he hasn’t pursued greatness as a single focus. There has been a lot of change in his professional life since he crushed the field at the 2012 PGA – it’s hard enough to win when that’s all you’re thinking about.

Hey, if Thomas Bjorn doesn’t stumble to a Sunday 75, McIlroy grabs another top 10 and doesn’t resolve any issues as to which direction he’s heading. He hasn’t been playing poorly in 2014, but when a guy with his talent goes winless for 21 months, there clearly has to be a reason.

AS FOR THE tournament McIlrebound won, there is no reasonable explanation as to why the Euro Tour’s PGA Championship isn’t a WGC event. They launch one in China and and play it in November, which makes no sense, but Camp Ponte Vedra can’t see the credibility value by staging one in the United Kingdom?

Too bad. Wentworth is one of the game’s great venues. London might be the world’s coolest city, and to leave Europe out of the WGC equation altogether is just plain silly. It helps explain why every high-profile American player passes on the event year after year, but then, our guys only travel overseas when there’s a big fat appearance fee involved.

When the WGC series began in 1999, the third and final event of the season was played at Valderrama GC in Spain, which simply wasn’t a good idea – too remote a location, too underdeveloped as a golf nation, too goofy a layout. American Express was the title sponsor, however, so Valderrama it was, although the tournament soon began moving around until AmEx surrendered its host status in 2006.

A couple of those WGCs were played in Ireland, and in ’06, the AmEx was held in England. Other than the Open Championship, that was the last time a PGA Tour event was held on British soil. For all the interest shown in Asia by the game’s governing bodies, the motivation there is purely commercial.

That grow-the-game stuff is all well and good, but you’d think the neckties would sense an obligation to the part of the world where golf holds the most cultural significance.

NOT THAT I have any reason not to believe him, but it will be interesting to see if U.S. Ryder Cup skipper Tom Watson adds Woods to the team regardless of how he plays upon his return from back surgery. Watson has made it clear that he intends to use a captain’s pick on Sir Eldrick, but things can change, and we’re still a long way off before a decision has to be made.

There are several things to consider here other than Woods’ health and on-course performance. Tiger and Watson are not exactly buddy-buddy – the captain hasn’t been bashful about expressing negative opinions regarding Woods’ behavior over the years. And Tiger, as we all know, is one of the great grudge-holders in the history of golf.

Instead of thinking out loud, let’s turn to Paul Azinger, who knows both men well and was the last U.S. pilot to actually win a Ryder Cup. And Azinger did it without Woods, who missed the 2008 matches at Valhalla while recovering from knee surgery.

“I wouldn’t be giving Tiger a whole lot of thought at this point,” Azinger said. “You have no control over how he stands physically. I would have a hard time not picking him. I would put it to him as, ‘Do you want to help us avenge what happened last time [2012]’

“If you’re Watson, you go right to Tiger and ask him point-blank: Do you want to play? It becomes a terrific leadership option for Watson. Pick him or not, he becomes assertive either way. The day he makes that decision is the day he truly becomes the leader of that squad.”

An educated guess? Woods will want to play. His return remains the source of great speculation, but there’s a decent chance he’ll play in at least one major, perhaps two. He’s still Tiger Woods. He could win both and make it a moot point.