The Edmond Sun

Sports

July 9, 2014

Montgomerie no overnight success

EDMOND — It’s pretty much a consensus of opinion that Bernhard Langer is the  favorite to capture the 35th U.S. Senior Open Championship at Oak Tree this week. But in the same breath, Colin Montgomerie of Great Britain is considered a solid contender to lift the championship trophy on Sunday.

“Who me?” asked Montgomerie. “You do know that it took me 22 years to finally win a 72-hole stroke play event in the states,” he said, referring to his four-stroke victory in the Senior PGA Championship at Harbor Shores. Montgomerie shot a 6-under-par 65 in the final round.

“Yeah, in Britain we call that an overnight success, 22 years of trying,” he laughed. “But truthfully it was a delight to finally win a 72-hole stroke play event in the states. I have won match play events but never a stroke play event. So delighted to do that.

“And especially when you see the top four that week, Bernhard Langer, Jay Haas and Tom Watson, when you see these guys just behind you, it makes it ever more meaningful when you do happen to win such a big event as that, as our U.S. PGA seniors.

“It gives me more confidence knowing it’s been done before, so it can be done again. I look forward, so much look forward, to the 35th U.S. Senior Open. And I have come close, as did I in the U.S. PGA, I came close there and I have come close in your own U.S. Open and I’d love to try and go one better than I have done before. So we’ll see,” he added.

Montgomerie is not without significant accomplishments. He is a 31-time winner on the European Tour, eight-time winner of the Order of Merit; and a 2000 inductee into the World Golf Hall of Fame. He’s had three top 10s last year in the Champions Tour in 10 starts.

So how does he describe Oak Tree?

In a word: “Tough” he said. “This is a fantastic golf course and set up brilliantly. A bit more room for us seniors off the tee and yet this course is all to do with the green work, the second shots in there. So it tests every part of the game. It tests your driving. You’ve got to put it on the fairway. It tests the second-shot accuracy and your shot selection and also shot selection around the greens.

“There are a lot of runoffs, a slot of steep runoffs here. Chipping could be quite difficult. And the greens are exceptional quality despite the hot weather you have here. So all in all, I think it’s a great test of golf and one that could stand, as I say, the test of time. If you ever decide to bring the U.S. Open back here it would really stand the test. This is a great, great golf course,” he added.

“This is my first time to play here. The only time I’ve played in Oklahoma was at Southern Hills in Tulsa, twice for the U.S. PGA but never here in Edmond. I’m very impressed with the whole setup, very impressed,” he said.

Does he agree that Bernhard Langer should be the favorite here?

“In a word, yes. I have known Bernhard Langer many, many years, a lot more than most people in this room. I have started playing against him what, 30 years ago. He hasn’t changed. He hasn’t changed at all. That’s a compliment to say that over the 30 years. He’s as good as the German futball (soccer) team, which is ridiculously good. Clinically, I’d say the futball team is very well prepared, so is Bernhard Langer.

“All in all, we have someone there that we should be very proud of and someone who is dominating the tour right now. Someone that, I mean, I hate to say at 57 to raise new standards, but that’s what he’s doing. It’s fantastic to see that someone can actually improve over 50.

“There are very few guys in the world that can improve over 40. Bernhard Langer appears to be improving over 50. That’s a real compliment to say. So of course he’s the guy to beat.

“But at the same time there are a number of great competitors here. This is the strongest field for a number of years that I believe we have had here at the U.S. Senior Open with the likes of Scott Verplank turning 50 today and then Vijay Singh joining us. Just a shame that Freddie Couples is injured. But at the same time you have a fantastic field here on a course that deserves a good field. It will be a great winner here, I’m sure,” he added.

When told that only three other men, Gary Player, Hale Irwin and Jack Nicklaus have won the Senior PGA and then came back to win the Senior Open, Montgomerie laughed and said, “Thanks for reminding me of that. That would indeed be elite company to join. I hear Saturday and Sunday is going to be over 100 degrees here and that’s without humidity. That’s without the heat index. It’s going to be bloody hot. I wonder if any of those guys had to put up with conditions like that.”

“I’m just delighted that I’m so fit and so healthy and looking forward to the competition,” he added.

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