This is no time for Colin Montgomerie to get excited about Carnoustie.
He already has suffered enough.
The sometimes burly, often surly Scot should be positively chuffed with the British Open only a week away. Having gone 18 months without a trophy that belonged only to him, Montgomerie ended one of the longest dry spells of his career when his 6-iron somehow stayed out of the water on the 18th hole and he won the European Open by one shot.
It was his 31st victory on the European Tour, one more than Nick Faldo, trailing only Seve Ballesteros and Bernhard Langer. It came three weeks after he shot 82 in the U.S. Open to miss the cut, and two weeks after he turned 44.
“It is just great at 44 to come back and win again, as sometimes that is the end of one’s career,” Montgomerie said. “And I feel this is a new beginning for me, and I can look forward now.”
Forward, in this case, starts with the Scottish Open this week at Loch Lomond. The grand prize is a silver claret jug at Carnoustie, where Montgomerie believes he still has time to end his 0-for-62 drought in the majors.
But he might be kidding himself. Since the Masters began in 1934, only five players have won their first major championship after turning 40, and none has nearly as much scar tissue as Montgomerie.
No other player has been runner-up five times in a major without eventually winning one.
Montgomerie was in a three-man playoff in the U.S. Open at Oakmont in 1994 when he wore dark clothes in 100-degree heat and wilted. He ran off three straight birdies at Riviera in the ‘95 PGA Championship to get into another playoff, only for Steve Elkington to win with a birdie on the first extra hole. There was Congressional in 1997, when Monty took forever over a 5-foot par putt on the 71st hole and missed, losing again to Ernie Els in the U.S. Open.
Last year at Winged Foot felt like root canal without Novocain.
Standing in the 18th fairway with a 7-iron in hand, Montgomerie chunked his approach and three-putted for double bogey, finishing one shot behind Geoff Ogilvy. It was the worst collapse at Winged Foot, even though Phil Mickelson’s double bogey was more spectacular.
There have been other not-so-memorable moments at the majors.
Montgomerie was riding enormous support at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in 2001 until splitting his pants trying to hit a bunker shot. No less an authority than Jack Nicklaus proclaimed him the U.S. Open champion at Pebble Beach in 1992 when he finished a wind-blown final round ahead of the leaders, only to see Tom Kite pull through.
Here he comes again.
The Scottish flag will wave proudly along the links of Carnoustie as Brave Monty rides again.
“It will be a battle whether he can use the emotional momentum from being in Scotland and the great support he gets,” Faldo said Tuesday. “He’s been there enough times, I’m sure there’s got to be a couple that scarred him. But you never know with Monty. He’s on a bounce-back. Maybe he’ll ride the wave all week.”
He’s coming off a victory he called “very, very important,” but one has to wonder if even Montgomerie truly believes a major championship is in his future.
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