No longer a villain, say hello to a much merrier Monty

Scot leads U.S. Senior Open after shooting 65 on Thursday

     Colin Montgomerie appears to have aged in reverse, or he hasn’t aged at all. A grumpy young man has become a pleasant older fellow.

     Montgomerie still has the same delivery when he speaks, but what previously was crass now seems far more charming.

     Montgomerie's tongue remains sharp, but his wit no longer leaves flesh wounds. Instead of wincing at his remarks you find yourself unable to suppress a smile or laughter. His verbal punches have become punchlines, wonderfully punctuated with a thick Scottish accent.

     Montgomerie's primary target for ridicule now appears to be ... himself.

     There might not be another golfer on any tour you would rather see enter the interview area. Like it or not, believe it or not, this once villainous Scot has become a lovable bloke.

     One thing Monty has always been is blunt. Awkwardly, painfully and brutally blunt.

     Montgomerie played alongside Tiger Woods in the third round of the 1997 Masters and looked as though he had just been taken behind the woodshed after Woods had whipped him by nine shots (65-74).

     Montgomerie sat down in the media center and gave a succinct sermon: “All I have to say is one brief comment today, and there is no chance – we’re all human beings here – and there is no chance humanly possible that Tiger Woods is going to lose this tournament.”

     After a few chuckles from reporters, a 33-year-old Montgomerie sternly concluded, “No way.”

     A bit later in the interview session, Montgomerie was asked about the previous year’s Masters when Greg Norman blew a six-shot lead in the final round and lost to Nick Faldo by five strokes.

     “This is very different,” Montgomerie explained. “Faldo's not lying second, for a start. And Greg Norman's not Tiger Woods.”

     Zing. Vintage Monty.

     Montgomerie couldn’t have been more right. The 21-year-old Woods went on to win by 12 strokes and shot 18-under 270, both tournament records that still stand, and he remains the youngest Masters champion in history.

     Much of the American disdain toward Mrs. Doubtfire stems from his sparkling Ryder Cup resume.

     Montgomerie competed in eight straight events (1991-2006) and amassed an overall record of 20-9-7 (third-most victories in Europe team history), which included a 6-0-2 mark in singles play (tied for most points in team history) and 23.5 points won (third most all-time).

     In 2010, Montgomerie captained Europe to a 14.5-13.5 victory in Wales. Europe trails 25-12-2 all-time in the Ryder Cup and Montgomerie has been involved in half of those victories, going 6-3 against Team USA.

     Perhaps Monty hasn’t changed. We’ve all gotten older and he’s simply stayed the same. Whatever the reason, whether this transformation was contrived or not, we now have a much merrier Monty.

     Montgomerie is the first-round leader in the U.S. Senior Open at Oak Tree National, firing a 6-under-par 65 on Thursday that featured eight birdies and two bogeys while hitting 11 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens in regulation.

     Below are highlights from his post-round interview. Remember, his responses came with a Scottish accent:

     Q: Discuss today's round.

     Monty: “You know, it's only one round. You can lose it by the first day. You can't win it, as we all say. It's going to be grueling over the next three days. We had our coolest day, which is still very hot [smiling]. So, yeah, it's going to be near 100 the next three days so concentration levels will be difficult to maintain for everybody out there, not just myself. I look forward to the challenge of trying to compete against the rest of the field, the golf course, which is superb, and also the weather conditions which are very foreign to myself and most competitors, to be honest. We don't usually play in 100 degrees. It's going to be interesting over the next three days.”

     Q: You were in here yesterday and remarking about how fantastic you thought the golf course was and how brilliantly it was set up and could host a regular U.S. Open.

     Monty: “Very much.”

     Q: Talk a little bit about the golf course itself, how it played out there this morning.

     Monty: “I think the USGA did a super job. I'm not just saying that because there is big U.S. Open and USGA (sign) in front of me here [laughter]. I'm not just saying that because there is. The USGA set the course up very well today. The holes that had to be pushed forward because of the conditions this morning were, and I think they did a great job in understanding the weather conditions and they set the course up accordingly. All credit to them for that. The course itself, I said yesterday that I did enjoy playing the golf course. It is a unique course in many ways. It's one of Pete Dye's first golf courses and a great golf course it is. You should be very proud of it here in Oklahoma.”

     Q. You mentioned that the heat is going to be a factor upcoming. How confident are you in your physical conditioning going forward?

     Monty: “Well, my physical conditioning is obviously up to scratch, there is no question about that. [Smiling; rolling of the eyes; laughter] Good question, really. I think that it is going to be a physical examination out there. I have done well in the heat over the past. You know, we play in Asia where it's very warm in the Singapore, Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur areas. It's in extreme heat there. I've done OK there. We did OK in Pittsburgh back in '94 when it was a record heat of 100 degrees. I was unfortunately 20 years younger. But at the same time, I don't mind it. I don't mind it. No, you get around. It's part of the job, and the rewards are so great at the end of it that you keep going, believe me. You look at the end result and you look at the rewards available at the end of a championship.”

     Q. Did the rain delay (before your round) mess up your routine? If so, how did it do it, and then what did you do during that hour and a half?

     Monty: “Yeah, it messed up my whole day, really. I would have shot 62 otherwise [laughter]. Not really, no. I mean, I was surprised we were out so long, to be honest. It was black really this morning. You could have called us in for light, never mind lightning or rain. It was so dark out there that it was eerie in many ways. It was like Armageddon, you know. It was weird. So the siren was expected. I was surprised at the length of the delay. It was only an hour, really. We got back out, and let's hope that for the sake of everyone that we can finish the day's play today. We're right on the edge, but it will be great if we could finish the day's play today and also through tomorrow, as well.”

     Q. Realizing conditions will probably be tougher and you’re at 6-under right now, do you think that might be the winning number?

     Monty: “Oh, goodness me. I have no idea. I have no idea. Normally what happens, and if you're a betting man, what happens normally in championships is in four-round events, if you look at the first-round leader and you double it and you add 2, that's usually your winning score. Now, I would take 14-under right now, but that's normal. This isn't normal because it's a major and I am going to play in intense heat over the next few days. I would expect it to be less than that, but certainly more than where I am right now.”

     Q. Yesterday you said this course would test the PGA Tour. What was your recipe to ace today's test?

     Monty: “Well, good question. I was patient. I was relaxed. We had a good time. Rocco Mediate and Tom Lehman was a good pairing. I was happy with the pairing we had, the three were playing together. We played a lot together over the first year of my Champions Tour life. Relaxed and patient, really, I suppose. But the statistics, you know, add up, I suppose. Sixteen greens out of 18. Not bad statistics, really. And then 11 fairways out of 14. You'd take that. So, yeah, just a good run of golf, a good, solid round of golf today.”

     Q. There was a report that the wind was doing some strange things. Did you notice that? If so, how did you approach it?

     Monty: “Yeah, I mean, on the range, it switched from practice to the range this morning a complete 180 degrees, which is very rare. That's what brought in the weather, a north wind. We have been having a southerly wind in practice, so it's been a complete reversal. Then it died down a bit say from 20 miles an hour, died down to 5 to 10 right now. It's also switching, as well, with the heat. It tends to switch around and swirl a bit. So it is kind of difficult to judge the wind out here. You're always going to get breeze out here in Oklahoma. That's part of the test out here. At the same time, I prefer the wind and the cool than the no wind and the heat [smiling].”

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