Eight time European Number One Colin Montgomerie has commenced his own personal countdown to 0755 local time on Thursday morning as he prepares to tee it up in the US PGA Championship for the first time in four years.
Since making the transition to senior golf last year, the 51 year old Scott has revelled in being amongst the men he fought tooth and nail during a distinguished career around the globe, and he returns to Valhalla this week fresh from some Major success of his own.
The Scot came up just shy of wins in one of the big four events on a number of occasions, registering three runners-up finishes at the US Open, one at the Open, and another at the US PGA in 1995 when he lost in a play-off at Riviera Country Club to Australia’s Steve Elkington.
Montgomerie had plenty of success besides, but with his recent triumphs at both the US Senior PGA Championship and the US Senior Open, ha has no doubt found a little peace. As a result he heads to Louisville in high spirits and ready to mix it with the young guns once again.
“It’s great to be back,” said the current number one on the Senior Tour Order of Merit. “We play five Majors on the Champions Tour, so this is actually my sixth of the year, so you could say I’m Majored out. At the same time though, having won the PGA Seniors, which allows me into this one, it is great to be back in this fold, and it is great to see everybody again.
“I hate to say it, but I do think that the way I have been playing this summer means that my game is good enough to compete this week, I do. This course is very long at about 7,500 yards as we tend to play on ones that are more like 7,000 on the senior circuit, so if you add that up it is something like 40 yards a hole, and that’s the issue.
“I can hit the fairways, I can get up and down, but it is the length of the shots into the greens that is going to be an issue for someone who hits the ball 280 off the tee rather than 320. I’m ready for the competition though, and I want to represent the Senior Tour and see how we go.
“When I tee it up now with the seniors I know I have an opportunity of contending, if not winning, whereas the previous five years out here I can honestly say I didn’t feel that way. So it is different, but the competitive juices start flowing, which is how it felt in the 90s when I believed I could win.
“This is a whole different ball game this week though, playing against the likes of Rory McIlroy who hits the ball out of sight, but at the same time I want to be able to test myself and see where I am.”
It is great to see one of European golf’s most legendary talents back on the game’s grandest stage, and Montgomerie’s text book high finish and gentle fade is as recognisable as ever amongst the professionals putting in the countless hours on the range.
One of those, who is also the favourite this week after back to back wins at the Open Championship and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, is of course Rory McIlroy. The 25 year old World Number One has been in dominant form of late, and Monty has been one of countless fans across the globe who have revelled in seeing the Northern Irishman perform to the best of his abilities once more.
“Rory has been just superb,” said the victorious 2010 Ryder Cup Captain. “In him we have a rightful number one in the world, because when he plays his best he wins, and I could say the same about Tiger Woods in the year 2000.
“Having played the course this morning, it suits Rory down to the ground, as it is like a Congressional (where he won the 2011 US Open). There are some bunkers out there at 300 yards that he doesn’t even see, whereas I see them as ones I can lay up on, so it is a whole different ball game. He’s hot favourite here if he is not too tired from last week’s exploits and the Open, and he should probably win.
“He is doing the right things now, and has spent the last few years learning how to react and how to cope with stardom, which is not easy. Living one’s life in the public eye is ever easy, and he is managing it very well, especially over the last month. I therefore expect he will win here as well to make it four Majors, and that will have him well on his way to greatness.”
Montgomerie will be turning the ignition on his competitive engines at 0755 local time on Thursday morning, when he tees off from the tenth alongside 2003 US PGA winner Shaun Micheel and this year’s PGA Professional Champion Michael Block.