Colin Montgomerie will be on familiar ground when he tees up in the opening round of the WGC-American Express Championship at Valderrama.
Back in 1993 the Scotsman came to this majestic Robert Trent Jones course in southern Spain knowing that he had to win the Volvo Masters in order to secure first place on the Volvo Order of Merit and the fact that he succeeded in that aim fills him with confidence now that he has to duplicate that feat if he is to extend his reign as Europe’s No. 1.
Heading into the WGC-American Express Championship, the last counting event on this year’s Volvo Order of Merit, Montgomerie is in sixth place on the money list, behind Darren Clarke, Lee Westwood, Ernie Els, Thomas Bjorn and Michael Campbell and he knows he has to win if he is to have any chance of overtaking them and extending his unprecedented seven year reign as Europe’s No. 1.
It’s a tall order, not least because the world’s No. 1, Tiger Woods, is in the field, but a goal the Scot is hopeful he can achieve.
“I guess you could say that I’m on familiar ground here this week and it is something I hope will help me once we get started,” said Montgomerie.
“I’ve got wonderful memories of victories of winning here in ’93 when I won my first Order of Merit title, and don’t forget that two years later, in ’95, I also arrived at Valderrama knowing that I needed to make up ground to get to the top of the list, and on both occasions I was able to do enough to get to No. 1.”
This year Montgomerie’s attempt to win the Volvo Order of Merit title is complicated by the fact that, no matter what he does, he cannot get to No. 1 if Darren Clarke has a top-5 finish or if Lee Westwood finishes in the top-3 but he is determined that he will not allow this possibility to deflect him from his challenge.
“There’s nothing I can do if that’s what happens so I don’t intend letting it bother me,” he said. “All I can do is to play as well as I can and then hope that it’s good enough.”
Montgomerie left his audience in no doubt what his reign as Europe’s No. 1 has meant to him and stressed the huge desire he has to head the money list again.
“I’m very proud of my record, so proud of it, in fact, that I don’t want to lose it,” he said. “It has meant a lot to me. I think I’m a better player now than I was back in 1993 and 1995 and hopefully that will be enough for me to do it.
“I’m confident of doing well. That’s all I can say.”