Many people still have the image of Colin Montgomerie 1.0. A member of the World Golf Hall of Fame and arguably the most successful European Ryder Cup player of all-time, Montgomerie amassed 32 European Tour wins, four Player of the Year awards and seven seasons atop the Order of Merit (money-winning) list.
But Montgomerie is also known for a record of near misses and disappointments, having failed to win a single event on the PGA Tour and also drawing a goose egg in major championships. American galleries taunted him mercilessly, and the proud Scot responded by scowling, snarling and making it look like playing tournament golf was about as much fun as chewing aluminum foil. There is a different Monty afoot now, though; he is a designing golf courses all over the world and serves as a broadcaster with the Golf Channel, covering the game that he played at such a high level.
When we caught up to him in Orlando, Montgomerie was bouncing around in his new Sketchers GO GOLF shoes with the energy and grin of a teenager in love. He insisted on taking care of a line of fans that had been patiently waiting for an autograph and a picture. He began our chat with a warm greeting and a gentle ribbing about how “fancy” our cell phone was.
This is definitely Colin Montgomerie 2.0.
Who is the golfer that you wanted to be like?
Seve. I wanted to be like Seve. Every man wanted to be like Seve, and every woman wanted to be with him. He was a good-looking guy, charismatic, he was passionate… he was everything that you wanted to be in the game.
Do you think the PGA Tour is stronger or weaker than it was 20 years ago?
In depth, the PGA Tour is stronger now than it ever was. Number 50 on the PGA Tour now is a lot better than he was. Twenty years ago number 50 wasn’t winning tournaments; now he is.
Who’s the best player you ever saw?
Woods, hands down.
What’s the one mulligan that you’d like to have, on the course or off the course?
Second shot, the last hole at [the U.S. Open] Winged Foot in 2006.
Describe the shot.
Ahh… you know, I was enjoying my day until you came along [laughs]! I was leading the U.S. Open at the time; I was in the fairway and completely messed up a seven iron. I eventually took double bogey where bogey was enough for a playoff. And it should have been easy, with me as a fader of the ball and the pin on the right side of the green it should have been easy to just aim at the middle of the green and let it go, and I made a complete [mouths an expletive] of it and… well, yeah. So if I could have one shot in my career back, it would be that one.
What sport would you have liked to be a professional in other than golf?
Very good question… a racing driver.
Like [Scottish Formula One champion) Jackie Stewart?
Yes and no. I liked Jackie, but for me it would more about the Touring Cars than Formula One. I’ve sat in the passenger seat sometimes and these guys are unbelievable.
You mean the Rally Cars?
Yes. The drivers, they can make the car talk.
Why are so many guys shooting 59 now?
Well, they are in great shape, and they have superior equipment and instruction. But the most important reason is because they think they can. Tiger Woods showed this generation how to play golf fearlessly, how to go after a lofty goal and not be afraid of failing. I have been close [60 at the 2005 Indonesian Open], but I didn’t feel like I was going to make the putts for the 59. The players now assume they will make everything. It’s kind of like the four-minute mile; once it has been done it doesn’t seem like the same intimidating barrier.
You are now in the broadcast booth, commenting on players who you have played with. Is it difficult to be honest with your commentary?
It’s a challenge, yes. Look, I’m still playing. I have to see these guys in locker rooms out there, so it could get rather awkward. But for now I do try to give the best commentary that I can, all things considered. I do think it will be easier for me to be completely open when am not playing events anymore.
Which would you rather win: the Grand Slam, an Oscar, a Nobel, or a $100 million lottery?
For the record, how much did you say that lottery was for [laughs]? Sure, the Grand Slam…but one major would have been quite nice [laughs].