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July 16, 2003
ROYAL ST. GEORGE'S, ENGLAND
STEWART McDOUGALL: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Colin Montgomerie. Colin, the weather down here is somewhat different than last week at Loch Lomond. Tell me how your preparations are going.
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: I came down yesterday and I did my usual practice round at 4 o'clock yesterday evening. It was great, lovely evening. And very few people around. It was excellent. And I'll go out again and play probably the back nine holes again today. It's one of these courses where everyone realizes that there's a definite bail-out area on certain holes, and you have to find out more than one round around here where that might be. So it does take a little bit of getting used to.
Yes, I know the course, I've played here a few times, but at the same time, in Open conditions, where it's so dry that the ball tends to be bouncing more than normal and running off certain greens they wouldn't do normally. You have to be very careful with the second shots. But preparation was good last night. I played very well last night. And I'm looking forward to tomorrow.
Q. You obviously weren't happy with your performance last week at Loch Lomond.
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: 53rd. No, you're right, I wasn't very happy with that. I played very well last week. I putted very, very poorly, very poorly. And I actually hit the ball quite well. I hit as many fairways as I've done ever, and hit as many greens, I just putted very poorly, and didn't make any birdies. So there's not much gone wrong with the game at all, it's just a matter of scoring. I didn't score last week at all. It was disappointing. But there's nothing much in that 53rd place. It was awfully disappointing for me.
Q. A question on a scale of 1 to 10, how do you rate your chances for this week?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: And your question? I don't know, really. It's a very difficult question to answer. How do I rate my chances? If I didn't say ten, I shouldn't be here, right? So there's your answer. I am here, so it's ten. If I wasn't here, it would probably be less than one.
Q. Is ten a realistic answer?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Yes. I'm realistically here.
Q. Reverting to the putting, have you ever, since you picked up that belly putter, have you ever thought about going back to a short one?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: No.
Q. And why?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Why? Because it's technically better. Imagine how I'd finished last week if I'd used a short one. So if I was teaching the game of golf right now to any beginner, I would certainly teach that form of putting. That form of putting is better technically than having only two sort of pivot points on the club as opposed to three. And if you can have three, that must be a benefit compared to two. So I'm a great advocate of that belly putter. I would teach that method to anybody starting the game. I won't change. That to me is the way to putt.
Q. And yet you still want to see it banned?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Yes, it's not fair. 53rd is far, far too good. And it's not fair. Three pivot points for us is not right. You should only have two bodily parts touching the club at one point, at one time. And three shouldn't be allowed. But as long as it is allowed, I'm using it.
Q. Can you explain how -- what your feelings are like to be able to perform as well as you have done traditionally, and did so brilliantly in the Ryder Cup last September in a team event, and have the difficulties, if that's the right word, that you have talked about in this event. In short, how can you produce it in the Ryder Cup?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: I don't know really. It's a question that I'd love to be able to answer easier than obviously the answer is going to be, because if I knew the answer to that I would have used that answer before and would probably have won this event by now, if I played the way I did back in September. I don't know why that should be. I've got more freedom in a match play situation. I've got more freedom in the Ryder Cup. If I don't win, hopefully one of the other guys will.
There's situations in a team situation that are very different than when you're on your own. But at the same time we have to keep going and learn from that and take as many positive points from it. And I've been working on that for this week, sure I have. This is the biggest week of my year, always. And the last few years have been relatively successful in many ways. I have the course record the last two Opens I've played in. And all four of these course records, I believe, four out of the seven courses I hold the course record at. So it's not that bad, it's just a matter of putting four together, you know. And I'm sure if I was out at 8:00 on Saturday morning as opposed to 3:00, it would have been different. But there you go. You take your chances and it didn't work out last year. Lytham, I should have done better, I was disappointed at Lytham. Muirfield, upstairs took control of that one.
Q. Is there a frustration factor because of this?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: No. No, I'm not frustrated at not winning an Open, no, if that's your question. I'm not frustrated at all, no, no. If I finish my career and haven't won a major and whatever the case may be, I'll look back on a very successful time, thank you very much. And yes, I haven't won. Gary Player would say I have, I've won a couple. I haven't lost in 72 holes, twice. It's just a matter of crossing that final hurdle that hasn't been possible to this stage. Who knows. Who knows.
Q. A great deal of emphasis has been placed on Britain's young guns, you are now of a certain knowledge --
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Careful, careful --
Q. Do we ignore British players of a certain age?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Do you think Nick Faldo is coming here to finish second? No. Do you think I have? No. Do you think other people over 40 have that are British? No. I saw Bernhard Langer in the clubhouse, he's not British, but very European, and one of us -- I don't think he's here to finish second, he's come here to win, as well. This type of course I think would certainly favor those who are tactically minded, and that brings in myself, Langer, Faldo, we play a very similar type of game, a very patient game, and a game that doesn't involve that amount of length, if you like, but certainly one that controls the ball. And it might be interesting how well we do compared to the so-called younger generation. But at the same time we're very fortunate, we have a number of young players that we'll see coming through, and I think it's great. I'm sure one or two of them will perform very well.
Q. Along the lines of this questioning, there are I think only two players from the European Tour among the top-20 in the world rankings, are we just --
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Well, I'm 21st, sorry.
Q. Three out of 21?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Thanks, that sounds much better.
Q. Is it just circumstances or are we in a lull between your generation and the young guns?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Yes, there was more in the past, obviously in the late '80s, early 90's, the top five in the world, I suppose, were European and it was marvelous. Times do change, you know, and what have you. I suppose we are in that position where there is a slight change. My goal at the start of the year was to remain in the top 10 in the world, and I've fallen back 11 spots, and it's my goal for the rest half of the season to get back in the top 10. I plan on making that three out of the top-20, if you don't mind, by the end of the year. But I think the changes that happen along the way, Faldo, Woosnam, Langer, Lyle, you can't stay at the top forever. If we did, Mohammed Ali would still be champion, wouldn't he? And these things don't happen. I was lucky to remain at the top of the tree in Europe for so long. Why was I the only one that did it 7 times in a row? Because it was obviously very difficult to achieve and very difficult to stay there. Or else everyone would do it. And everyone can't do it. So it is a changing pattern, I suppose, and we're in that right now.
And I think you'll find in the next few years, I think you'll find that the young British players that we've spoken so much about will come through, I'm sure they will. They're practicing harder, they're fitter, and there's no reason why they shouldn't.
Q. Two young Scots playing in their first Open tomorrow, would you be in a position to give them any advice, and can you remember what you felt in your first open?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Obviously anxiety, and trying to get out unscathed, more than anything. This course, this is one of our toughest tests, especially off the tee. And that's where it will show, I suppose. I was reading this morning, I don't often read the papers, but it was put in front of me, and it said that Greg Norman said there was only 20 percent of the people that would hit the first fairway. And I went down at 4:00, hit a great shot down the left side with a bit of fade, which normally works, and it missed the fairway in the right-hand side and the marshall said that's one of the good ones. So 20 percent is actually very conservative. I think only about ten percent will hit the 17th fairway, I can assure you that.
So for the two Scots to play, I think it's marvelous for them to get in and to play, and to see how they do. It's a test for them, I suppose, it's a challenge. And whatever happens to them, whether it's good, bad or indifferent, they'll learn from it, as I did. So it's an experience and it's a learning experience, yeah.
Q. As someone reknowned for your distance control, to what extent do you modify it for these conditions? Is that a contributory factor to what is a comparatively moderate record in the Open Championship, as compared to the rest of your career?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Good question. Yesterday we had 180 to the pin, but only plays 160, you know? So you've got to be careful. Or does it play 160? Does it play 165? Does it play 175 sometimes. So that's possibly why my record has been so-called moderate in this event, in that some rounds are good and some aren't, because of that judgment of distance. And I've always been proud of the way that I can hit a shot 178 yards, right. It doesn't matter what club it is, but I can hit it that distance. On a links course, on a dry links course as we have here, that 178 is -- is it 178? Is it 165, do you pitch it 160? So, yes, there's more, I suppose, I hate to use the word, but luck involved, yes. And sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, that's possibly why I've had certain very good rounds here and certain indifferent rounds.
Q. Can I ask you how you're enjoying the Kent weather?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: I think we all are, apart from the air conditioning in here, mind you.
Q. And also how do you rank St. George's in the Open roster?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: They all have their good and different parts to them. I think this is overall a very, very fair test of golf, this particular golf course. We haven't played here for ten years, and a number of the players haven't actually played here at all. So it's the first chance to see this course. And a very good one it is, too. It doesn't go the same way as some of them do. Some go straight out and straight back, as the old links did. This is more roundabout. Taking the wind into effect is a very good test of golf, especially off the tee. And you see a lot of 3-woods, a lot of 2-irons being used, very few drivers, if you like, because length is not a premium, but where your position is on the fairway is. So I think it's a very good test of golf. You have all types of shots to hit.
Q. How are you trying to recreate the feelings you had at the Ryder Cup?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Well, it's just a matter of being as relaxed as I was at the Ryder Cup. I think that came over quite strongly, that I was very, very relaxed at the Ryder Cup. And I enjoyed myself. And whenever anybody enjoys themselves, they're usually quite good at what they do, and me included. So I've got to wake up tomorrow wanting to enjoy the day ahead and being as relaxed as possible, because whenever I play relaxed golf it's usually my best golf.
Q. When did you last enjoy a major?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: When did I last enjoy a major? Well, I enjoyed parts of majors. Last enjoyed a major? My God, have I ever? You don't enjoy -- the Ryder Cup, I don't think if you said to me on the 7th tee in the singles which Scott Hoch hit it to five foot, Am I enjoying myself, I don't think my answer would be yes. You look back on it and experience the enjoyment you had all week. I don't think at any one time you would say this is real fun, this is really good here. I wouldn't say that. But at the same time you look back on the experience as an enjoyable one, as an overall enjoyable one, and that's what I've got to get to the whole week of having an enjoyable week. If I can finish on Sunday night having had an enjoyable week, I should be on the leaderboard somewhere.
Q. As a gentleman of somewhat more mature summers, has your game plan changed?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: With regard to?
Q. Really how you approach -- mentally how your approach your game?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: I think I'm more relaxed than I have been over the years. I think that's key for me. There's no particular reason -- I need some fire to keep going. I need some fire to keep ambition going, or else I wouldn't be here. I need that, we all need that. But at the same time I think I'm more relaxed, and I am enjoying, as an overall picture, what I'm doing more now than I was, say, ten years ago.
Q. Colin, do you agree with the kind of distinction Tom Watson once made about those that are natural links players, and those that are not natural links players? And into which category would you place yourself?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Yes, I think he's right there. There are some people that these courses do favor, and you tend to get players that favor certain types of golf, just like tennis. There's clay court specialists, isn't there? And there's grass court specialists. And there's tarmack specialists, whatever the case may be. There are players that start on the first tee here that are looking forward to the challenge more than others, right? I fall into a category of, God knows, from Friday to Saturday last year, I fall into both categories. So I wouldn't say I was favored in these conditions, but also having had the odd very, very good round on these courses, I wouldn't fall into the latter, either.
Q. During your 7-year run at the top of the Order of Merit, you would come here to the Open as one of certainly the favorites. Do you still feel as a favorite now, and if not, is there a little bit less pressure on you than perhaps there was when you were at the top of the board?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: No, no, not at all. I still feel within my own self that I'm one of the favorites to win here. As I said earlier, I wouldn't be here if I didn't think I had a ten out of ten chance of winning. There might be less pressure on from a media point of view, but not a personal point of view, no, no. I'm as ambitious to win this as ever.
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: I was at Lytham. I was early, but the way it's worked out, I think the times, forgetting who I'm playing with, who I'm happy with, the 12:00, 7:00, I think to have almost two a.m. times is very fortunate, yeah. You don't want your early time at 10:00 , because you know that your late time is going to be at 3:00 and that wouldn't really be a good one. So I think my times at 12 and at 7 are very good. I'm very happy with that. I'm happy with the draw.
Q. You mentioned tennis a little while back there. Do you think that Tim Henman -- we put too much pressure on you and expect too much from you?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Not particularly. There's an awful lot of pressure put on Tim Henman at Wimbledon, and he's actually performed very well. The pressure on me over the last years was because that I happened to be the best player in Europe four years in a row. Tim, although a very good player, was never that. That was pressure compared to himself. But he always favored himself on grass. And he's done very well. Because some people having a huge support, fold, and he hasn't. He's done very, very well. I mean people say he wasn't successful at Wimbledon. He was ranked outside the top-20, and got to the quarter finals. It was a very good performance. He hasn't missed out in the quarter finals for the last five years now. That's fantastic. Because I was European No. 1 for so long, yes, I was expected to do well, too. If he was No. 1, he would be expected to do better than he did. So I think to play in front of a home crowd is sometimes detrimental, sometimes. I haven't found it; some players have.
Q. You were pictured fairly recently brandishing a club at a photographer.
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Yep.
Q. Did that amuse you? And the basic question I'm trying to ask is, do you care about your image?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Of course I care about my image, yes, yes. At the same time I care about what I score, as well. And how I score it.
Q. Can you just elaborate on why you care about your image?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Because I'm a father and a husband, and I care about that, as well. And I'm a very public figure. And I do care about image very, very, very much. When, unfortunately, that situation you're talking about came up, that's me caring about what I score. If I didn't care about what I did, I wouldn't be here.
Q. Is it just the heat of battle that actually changes things for you, because you're brilliant off the course?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: I just care. I just care about what I do professionally, very much so. And unfortunately sometimes that shows in certain ways. I'm not here to say yea or nay about that. At the same time I'm proud of the fact that I have produced the goods in certain pressure situations over the years, and certain players haven't. And that's why I'm here, I suppose. But at the same time I do care about what I do, very much so. My ambition is as strong as ever to win the British Masters, as it is here.
Q. Loch Lomond last week you said you were going away to try and sort out your putting. Have you succeeded in doing that?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Yes. I putted well last night. I was working with Dennis Pugh down at the Wisley on Monday, when I got back from Loch Lomond Sunday night. And we spent a few hours there on Monday, getting it sorted out for this week. And I feel much happier with it now. My hands weren't working together, if you like, and they are now. So I'm much more confident, much more confident.
Q. You said before that it's a very fair test of golf. It just seems that sometimes it can unfair when you hit it down the middle of the fairway and it rolls off. What makes this a fair test of golf?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Everything is in front of you, I suppose, and you see everything. It is fair in the fact that if you do hit a particularly bad shot you're going to get punished for it. The bunkers are in fair positions. The greens are fair in that if you do miss the green on the wrong side, if you like, you're going to get punished for it. There is a bail out. Unfair courses are those that don't have particular bail-out areas that you've got to hit the particular shot. If it doesn't work out then you are in a bit of a mess. Unfair courses are blind shots, bunkers in certain places that the ball is going to gather into, whether you hit a good shot or not. So this is a fair test of golf and a very, very strong one.
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