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January 23, 2018
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Colin, like to welcome you back to Dubai. Tell us about the journey.
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Yeah, it's a nice place to come, Dubai. The direction, you have to come from somewhere, but some I wouldn't start from, and Hawai'i is one of them. You wouldn't start from the big island of Hawai'i, Kona to get here, would you.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: What was the route?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Well, we got to L.A., the advantage that the tournament actually finished on Saturday, as opposed to Sunday because of the NFL semifinals for the Super Bowl on Sunday. So we finished on Saturday. So that gave us an extra day. It just took two days to get here via L.A., and Emirates did a great job here from L.A. direct; a long way, it's perfect, but you're tired.
It's funny, you don't change your watch at all, because completely 12 hours, so you don't change your watch. Normally, you know, when you land, you set it, you don't have to bother, just 12 hours.
Anyway, here we are, and look forward to this week, I really do. It's always been a special special place this, for me on a personal front, and back, well, 22 years ago now, when I won here, but the times that I did come here, you know, and contend here, I really enjoyed it. I think the course has stood the test of time terrifically well over the years. Very few courses have had as little change as this one and stood the test of time.
Karl Litten did a fantastic job in the design and the vision to make this place what it is. Superb, and it's great this year. Particularly, there's a very strong field, very, very strong field, as strong a field as I haven't witnessed for many, many years here in the Dubai Desert Classic, so everyone's excited about it.
Q. When did you last play here?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: I played here on the 25th anniversary. They invited the past winners back here. I believe it was, must have been 2014. Was it 2014 would it be, would that be right? Yeah, they give me a watch, so it's worth the trip (laughter). Didn't have to change it.
Q. Your last European Tour event, when was that?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Very good question. Scottish Open.
Q. Two years ago?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Two years ago Scottish Open. It was Gullane.
Q. I thought you played Castle Stuart, as well?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Was Castle Stuart after Gullane, was it? Unfortunately now, it's difficult to play in The Scottish Open now because we have a major, our Players Championship is a major and it's that week, the week before The Open. So it's unfortunate that really play The Scottish Open and got that major on the Champions Tour ahead of, it which is a pity in many ways, because The Scottish Open again, it's a special tournament.
You've got a great three weeks in Scotland coming up this year, great three weeks. To have The Scottish Open and then Carnoustie and then ourselves at St. Andrews is a super time coming up. So we look forward to that.
Q. What's the reaction been like on the practise ground?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Yeah, people seem to recognise me. I don't know, caddies wearing shorts, can't recognise anybody, even Niall Horan. Terrible, isn't it. Niall Horan, he has more Twitter followers than I have for sure.
Yeah, it's just a change of dynamics. When you think about it, there's, what, almost 30 percent change every year. So over the time that I've been away from the tour, say, five years now, fully five, four or five years, that you know, there's a huge amount of change on the Tour. Youngsters coming through all the time, good ones, too. It is, it's a changing world, and it is difficult.
Now you've only got a hundred spots and you've got to play well, or else you've got to find something else do, because there's always somebody willing to take your spot, wherever it might be.
Our own Champions Tour now in America there, it's becoming more and more difficult to get on, and then once you're on to keep there, to stay there. It's the same as The European Tour and same as the U.S. The standards are increasing hugely all the time. It isn't easy, no.
Q. You must have been encouraged by your own start to the season at the weekend?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Very much so. I'm very fortunate in my career to say that I haven't, you know, messed up too often. I there on Saturday. I messed up the last hole, and you know, my own fault. A one-shot lead, playing the last, I should really wrap that up, but all credit to him. He made his birdie, and I drove into a bunker and made a bogey. That was that.
So not often, I'm happy to say, not often have I done that in my career. So yeah, but looking on it, as a positive, it's a very good start to the year. Two 65s to start the year with a nine-week break was good.
I've been working with Kevin Craggs up near Edinburgh. He came down to Willesley a couple of times to work on my pitching and chipping, which has been poor over the last few years to be honest, and I had to improve that to save the shots, you know, to turn the 70s into 68s and that's working already. It's a long year and I look forward to it with a good, solid start behind me.
Q. How long have you been working with Kevin?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Just over the winter, really. In fact, during the winter, he was supposed to be to St. Andrews, but it was -7, so we called that off. He came down to the Willesley where I'm associated down in the south and it was only zero there, so it was much better. You know, it's not great, is it, when your competition is practicing in great weather in America, in the south of the States.
I've got to keep going because I know the competition now on our tour is extremely well. When you were playing against Couples and Langer and Vijay Cink and David Toms and Stricker and all that lot, they can all play, believe me. Jim√©nez, as well and you've got to try and stay ahead of them, yeah.
Q. Are you more accepting of messing up these days than perhaps 15 years ago?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: No. No, not at all. No. If I was accepting, I think the day that I accept, if I accepted that, that was a long trip from Hawaii oh to here having messed up, yeah, yeah.
If I was accepting, if I was accepting, I would have -- I wouldn't be playing, no. Just it happens. It happens. As I said earlier, I'm very fortunate that it hasn't happened -- it doesn't happen that often. It hasn't happened that often. I managed to turn those particular situations into victories, and this one just didn't unfortunately. There you go.
So we learn from it, and as we all know, you learn from every tournament and every round we play, and let's hope if it happens again, I won't do the same again.
Q. How much of a jump in standard is it this week; is it?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Yeah, it's a good question. They say that the one thick that everybody says, and I'm no different in that, is starting the Champions Tour in America, is how good they are, and I'm surprised. Shocked, how good the scores are.
These courses, they are not pitch-and-putt courses, these. They are seven thousand yards. They are decent courses. It will be interesting to see where I am in many ways, you know, because I'm playing okay.
I'm hitting the ball well. I'm finding the fairways. I'm finding the greens and I'm actually holing out okay. It will be interesting to see how I fair under these conditions here. This course has got longer obviously, playing longer because it's overseeded, so it plays about 7,400 now, 7,500. It's a much longer course, and of course the standard of golf, it will be interesting to see how you get on against these young guys that hit the ball well, well, honestly, 40, 50 yards past me.
If I'm hitting the ball 280, which I sort of do, and have done for 20 years, really, technology has kept me at 280. What are they hitting it; if I'm hitting it 280, they are hitting it 320, aren't they, plus.
So it will be interesting to see if it is all to do with length off the tee or is it about trying to get the ball in the hole with the least number of shots. It will be interesting to see how I fare and how some other guys around my age playing here will do similar. Jim√©nez, Els is here, Bj√∂rn, Clarke, these type of guys, to see how they do, as well. It's a great field. We've got a great field assembled, great field.
Q. I can't imagine there's many times during your career you've had a missile threat?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: It's interesting, of all the places to go, Sarah and I, we landed on Friday into Kona and Saturday morning, someone's going to blow us up, and I thought, well, that's great. Of all places to land, you know, you could pick anywhere, couldn't you, really, and yet we picked the one place that was a missile threat.
It was weird. It was a weird sort of thing, because people were going down manholes and stuff. I mean, what the hell, that's no use. If I was going to sort of know it's going to end, I'd just about order a drink from the bar and sit on the beach and watch it happen, really. Because you're going anyway, so you might as well just go out in style, other than down a bloody manhole. That's not the way to go, is it.
It was a weird sort of thing. And then I still can't believe that it was a change of, you know, it was a change of shift in their office and somebody pressed the wrong button. It was as if, oh, sorry, oops! I mean, surely there to be retina scans or fingerprints or someone else saying, oh, should you really press that button, you know.
Anyway. Somebody might not be in the position they were at the start of the week. But yeah, weird.
Q. What did you do?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Waited to hear if it was a hoax or not. It said it wasn't a hoax, but you can't -- but the nuclear deterrent has kept us safe for 70 years, so you know, I thought, well, I thought that would work, you know, until some shift in Hawai'i decided to change things.
I mean, that's bizarre, absolutely bizarre. But yeah, of all the places to go to, you've thrown two days to bloody well get there and someone goes and blows you up. Perfect. (Laughter) bloody perfect.
Q. Took a long time for them to say it was a hoax. Seemed to take a long time.
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Well, it did, it was about 30-odd minutes, which was too long, really. People were calling home and crying and things; I wouldn't worry about that.
Q. You've witnessed some strong eras in European golf. Where do you rate the coming state of European golf?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: I think we are beginning to see one here. I think you've got Thomas Bj√∂rn coming in after me, which will be interesting to hear what he has to say.
But he must be thrilled with the state of European golf right now, as we all are. We're all great fans and love the European game, and I think that he can only be delighted about what's happening at the weekend there with Sergio winning and Tommy Fleetwood proving himself yet again.
I just saw Tyrrell Hatton there, and I believe Paul Casey has rejoined the Tour and you've got Jon Rahm, as well. The four guys I mentioned are going to be a real asset to Thomas's team come end of September.
I think that the Americans fancy themselves as they always do, you know, as favourites coming in here with success recently. But I tell you what, that will be a game on in France. It will be very, very interesting to see how we go there. Those four players I mentioned will really be a huge asset to Thomas, yeah, to have, that Darren didn't have last time.
These two years is a long time in sport and it's moved on greatly in those two years. The likes of Fleetwood, Hatton, Jon Rahm, have appeared, really from nowhere on to this world stage, and Paul Casey, thank goodness, has rejoined the Tour because he's always been a world player.
Q. Could you tell us what about your new passion for surfing and how that's going?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Yes, well, I thought golf was very difficult, as I said on my Twitter and I felt, there's got to be something easier than this. And somebody said that I needed a good core to allow myself to surf.
So I thought it possibly was a bit harder than I gave it credit for. So I didn't bother. And there was a bit of a reef out on the Hawaiian coast and I was told to not bother there because I would kill myself on that reef.. I wasn't bombed -- but if I wasn't bombed, I would kill myself on the reef, so I haven't done either. But it was a good idea until someone said I needed a strong core to do that.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: You could have surfed away from nuclear winter.
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Yes, surf my way home. Surfed out of there.
Q. What would represent success this week?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: I think the first and foremost thing with anything, is to make the cut here. I'd love to do that. And then obviously from then, try and move on. Success here, I'd be thrilled with a Top-20 finish.
I've got to be realistic because the distance involved, and where the pin placements are nowadays and it's more difficult for me hitting an 8-iron in to these guys hitting a sand wedge. It is harder to get close to the pin with that scenario. But at the same time, course management skills, know my way around here. I personally would be very disappointed if I don't make the cut here.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: With that, we wish you all the best.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports