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March 21, 2001
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA
GORDON SIMPSON: You've won in Australia this year; you were very close in Asia. Can you do it in America?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: I've been close here a number of times, and I enjoy coming back to this course. And the way the course is set up seems to favor me more than most. The fairways are very narrow, and you have to hit them, and that always seems to favor me. I always look forward to coming here. I have a good record here. Though not having won, I've been close on a number of occasions and I've had a number of Top-5s, and I'm looking forward to doing that again.
GORDON SIMPSON: Do you like it when it is playing long like this?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: No. It's very cold out there and very windy and very difficult. But same for everybody, I suppose. We'll see how, you know, see how it pans out. But the course is playing very, very difficult this year. The greens are drying out now with two days, Tuesday, Wednesday, where the course is drying out remarkably well, and scoring will be very difficult. Very difficult.
Q. Do you expect it is going to be one of those weeks where you are hitting longer irons than you'd like into greens that end up being too hard to hold the ball?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Possibly. Into-the-wind holes, especially. Holes like 14 and 15 this morning are just off the course; and 14 was a 3-iron and 15 was a 4-iron. Now these greens probably were not designed to have these length of iron shots into them. But very difficult. When the greens dry out, as you say you want to be hitting 7-irons into those holes as we usually do and not 3 and 4 (irons). So very difficult.
Q. You said last week you took a lot of positives out of Bay Hill?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: I did. I don't often take positives out of finishing 50th. (Laughter.) I did on this occasion. My putting was terrible the first three days, and actually I drew something out of the last round. I played particularly badly the last day and shot 1-under. So at least I putted well the last day, and I'm taking that into practice round here. I'm putting a lot better than I did before I came. So it was good to sort of get rid of that poor performance at Bay Hill and look forward to the next two tournaments I'm playing over here, which is this one and the Masters.
Q. After Masters what is your schedule in the U.S., and when are you planning to play here?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: The next time I come back would be for Memphis, I believe, before the U.S. Open, and then the U.S. Open, and then I'm coming back and forth for U.S. PGAs and NECs and all of this sort of stuff. I've got to make the Ryder Cup team for the NEC one. So we'll see about that.
Q. So you have to play a full schedule over there for the Ryder Cup?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Not necessarily, no. I should make the team without having to play a full schedule, but I play about eight or nine over here and 15 or 16 over there. I feel I've got the best of both worlds.
Q. For those of us who were not at Bay Hill, could you tell us what you are doing differently with your putting? And is your coach here? Are you planning to work with him?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Yeah, he was here the first two days and actually left, and he was there last week, as well. I'm just trying to work on getting the grip of the putter, starting the swing, as opposed to the head of the putter starting the backswing. If the grip starts, the backswing -- it might sound a bit odd to you here, but you've got to get back with it to get through, and it has not been going back to get through. There's no point in not having a backswing to have a follow-through. So I'm just trying to get the putter back more, and it seems to be working. I've got a lot more confidence than I had, because I putted particularly badly in Malaysia and also Dubai. Disappointing finishes, really. I'm glad I got it out of my system, and now I'm looking forward to going tomorrow, early. (Laughter.)
Q. Did you ever consider making the PGA TOUR your full-time home, and if not, why?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Yes, I did consider it. And I considered it a great deal a couple of years ago, about three years ago, I believe, and it just was not right for me at that time. With the events on the schedule at that time, I felt like I was coming over here more anyway, so there was no need for me to play full-time over here, and that will remain. As I say, I play about eight or nine or ten tournaments over here now every year, and I play about fifteen at home and five other tournaments around the world, and that's my thirty, and that's what I've been doing for last ten years, and it seems to be working quite well.
Q. You mentioned that this course favors you. It's interesting to note the difference -- or your style of play . When you look at the difference of success for European Tour players at THE PLAYERS Championship versus the Masters just a couple weeks later, with Sandy Lyle being the only winner here, but 11 European Tour players have won in that stretch at that time. What would you attribute the different success level to?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: I think this is more -- more American style of golf course. The Masters, it's just very difficult for everybody. You know, we are all in the same boat there, with shots around the greens, especially. But this is more set up for the American style of play. It seems to be the grasses are the same here as they have been the last few weeks on TOUR, and the greens are of that even pace. The Masters is so unique for everybody that plays there that it gives us more of an opportunity to perform, and that's what's happened. That's what's happened in the Masters, compared to here.
Q. Do you think Tiger will be under even more pressure at Augusta, or has he already experienced and handled the maximum level of pressure?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: What, to try and win four majors? I think the word "Pressure" and Tiger go hand in hand, I'm afraid. Seeing the way that putt went in at the last -- on Sunday, boy, it was in as soon as it left the putter head. It was amazing. And he knew it was in, as well. I don't think the word "Pressure" affects that man at all. I think he just thrives on it and will be doing that at the Masters; and obviously, it is the one score that we are all anxious to see how he does. I know it will be very interesting for everybody to watch.
Q. Having played here a number of years, and everybody is saying this course is so tough here, is it different? In what ways is it different than years past like when Norman went low?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: The rough is high this year and it has not dried out the way the fairways have and to be avoided at all costs. The greens are drying out very much. So it is going to be very, very tricky. And the wind, of course, if it blows around here it gets very difficult. We are hitting 6-irons at the 17th today, and that is not what you want to do. So, it is very, very difficult out there.
Q. In a tournament of the stature of this one and the four majors, when you are playing one of those, are there particular players or types of players that you prefer to be playing with, either in terms of the competition or camaraderie, any of that stuff? In your case who would those people be or who would those types of people be?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: What? In the third and fourth rounds, you mean? (Laughter.)
Q. Whichever. I assume you want to be closer to the rear.
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: No, I -- I mean, there are players that you prefer to play with. I think, you know, I have a good success playing with Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson and have done well with them. Obviously, you want to be up there in the weekend. It doesn't matter who you are playing with as long as you are off late, I suppose. It does not really matter at that stage. You only have control over one thing, and that's you and your ball and nothing else. You just have to get along with them, that way, really. But there's no one that you would say: "I want to play with them this weekend." If he misses the cut, that's no damn good, is it? (Laughter.)
Q. In an ideal situation, if you could pick who you would play with in the final pairing, who would it be?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Me and the fellow that's three behind me. (Laughter.)
Q. I know you didn't play the West Coast Swing, but you might have seen some of the scores that came out of there, what Joe Durant did at Palm Springs, etc. Was it alarming to you that golf was making a drastic move towards extremely low scores or will a tournament like this set everything straight?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: This will set it straight here. I always feel like if you get around here in 72 you have done well. It is amazing how here and Augusta can seem to control the scoring more than any other tournament. It is amazing. If there is a 65 shot the first day at Augusta, you can guarantee that it will not be done again. And similar type of situation here. They can make these courses very, very difficult with pin positions, and the same will go for here. I'm sure that if you get around here in 72 tomorrow -- I always feel that there's nothing wrong with that round of golf at all. You've actually played quite well. Yes, I've shot 65 here, and that was playing very, very good. But at the same time, if you do break 70, you really have had a day out, and I feel that around here.
Q. When you saw what Calcavecchia and Durant had done on the West Coast, what was your reaction to that dramatically low score?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: The scoring is always quite low there, and obviously the weather is perfect; it has to be. You know, you can't have a wind blowing with that. And the greens have to be perfect and rolling, rolling at a very even pace. Once you've got that pace in the green early on, it is amazing how many putts you can hole, and that's what it is all about. I mean, you can't score low 60s for that length of time without holing consistent putts all the time, and that is what they are consistently doing.
Q. Westwood told us that had he not won in the United States something would be missing from his resume. Would you feel the same way?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: No. (Smiling). Yes, I would like to win here, but it will not change me or my life in any way, shape, or form. It would be nice to win here, I suppose. But because I've come very close a couple of times, if I was Gary Player I would be sitting here saying I've won two majors, and -- I'm not Gary Player, by the way. (Laughter.) You know, I've been second, third, whatever the case may be, and I've done okay here. I don't have a bad record here. It's not as if I have not performed here at all. I have performed very well. I just have not got that fortune that you need coming down the last few holes. It happened in '96, was it, against Freddie, I believe. He had a bit of fortune and I didn't, and that was -- that was the way it went. You've got to accept that and go on. I finished second and, okay, fine. I was third here again last year, and as I say, I look forward to playing here. I feel I can win here. I do. I really feel that I can win here. This is a tournament I really do look forward to every year. It is a major championship. You'd be doing well to say that you are not a major champion if you win this event. This is a major. I don't know who makes the rules or who decides four or five or six or how many majors we have in this world, but this is a major championship of all proportion, and I really feel I can win here.
Q. Let's stick with the traditional four. Let's say Tiger wins at Augusta. What camp are you on in terms of whether or not that would be a Grand Slam, and what do you think of the magnitude of that possibility?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: You know, we said it was not possible, and he was the only person that could make it possible, and who says he can't win all four this year as well and hold seven? (Laughter.) At the same time, you would be doing well to stop me from saying -- if I held four majors, if you put all four on top of the table and say I hold all of them, that's a Grand Slam. He's got all four, for goodness sakes.
Q. You said that Tiger thrives on pressure and that it does not affect him at all. We just heard Hal Sutton mention the fact that because of what he achieved last year, he has got great expectations and everybody else has great expectations; that it is almost insurmountable to have another year like that; that was a unique year; and that he could see frustration on his face now of not being able to live up to the standards that he set.
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Sure.
Q. Can you see any of that scenario?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: I think so, a little bit. You know, I'm sure Phil Mickelson is sitting there, going, "Wow, that was fortunate or unfortunate for me at Bay Hill." There's a couple of drives on 16 and 18 which were not Tiger-like, long and straight. They were a little bit left. But at the same time, you've got to ride that luck and go with it. I'm sure that's given him the confidence he needs to come in here, off a win. And he did it last year off a win at Bay Hill and came here and very nearly succeeded again. You know, it was only Hal Sutton's ability that held him off. If it was not someone as tough as Hal Sutton is, and we know how tough he is mentally, Tiger would have won that one. Especially the way Tiger eagled 16. That would have broken most people. But Hal Sutton stuck to his task very well. All credit to him. It needs someone with that ability again, and a bit of fortune coming in, to beat Tiger this week.
Q. Coming off your first year that you have not won the Order of Merit in almost a decade, is there any rededicating? (Laughter.)
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: You anointed this fellow here. (Smiling).
Q. Is there any rededicating? Is 2001 particularly important to you, or is it the same approach this year as all of the other ones?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Yes, it's the same approach this year as always has been. I did not set out from 1993 through 1999 with that goal in mind. I always came here languishing 30th on the Order of Merit as I am now. I was always ahead early on and it just happened that it all worked out. All good things come to an end, I suppose, and it lasted a lot longer than anyone else's, I suppose. I'm glad it lasted that long. It could have broken on a 4-foot putt in 1995, but it didn't. It just so happened that it went on for a long time. There's no rededication, to answer your question, in 2001. I just am glad that I've had a win already this year, and that's that off the back and looking forward to the two tournaments that I've got left in America here on this trip and coming back here. I do enjoy playing here, it's just a matter of, as the gentleman at the back said, you try to win here. It would be nice, but it would not change anything. It would not change anything at all. There's no rededication. It's just the same old routine, really.
Q. You've played the Callaway driver that is barred here. If it were used here widely, do you think it would make an appreciable difference or has too much been made of a single piece of equipment?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: I don't think it would make that much difference, to be honest. I've used it, obviously. The reason I don't use it, is, because, of course I can't play it over here. I use the next best thing, if you like, which is their sort of VFT club and I am using that this week. It only makes a difference, say, if it is ten yards further or something, which is a bit of a difference to the amateur player. I listened to Arnold Palmer speak at Bay Hill during one of the commercial breaks -- one of your many commercial breaks. (Laughter.) He was saying quite rightly that it does bring more pleasure to the game for the average person. The average handicap in this country I think is 18 or above. We must remember that. We tend to be an area where we are talking about birdies and eagles and the general public are talking bogeys and doubles, okay. So we do get slightly -- slightly off center with that. But at the same time, it does bring pleasure to players. It has brought a lot of pleasure to players in Europe and in Japan, I believe, and it would be nice if it did the same thing over here. That's what people are striving for. As Palmer said, it does not matter whatever tee you are playing off, to hit the ball ten yards further is a joy for everybody and every amateur player, and it would be nice to see it open up. But I do believe that the R&A and the USGA should really get together and make a rule that governs the thing on both sides of the Atlantic and not just on one.
Q. Last year, the hot topic at this time was Tiger's intimidation factor. It was widely discussed. Thomas Bjorn after Dubai said that that does not really exist anymore; that people are not afraid of him. Do you sense a sentiment shift in that area?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Yes, I do. I think Thomas did a lot for European golf, from what he achieved in Dubai. And you know, to birdie 17 the way he did and hit the fairway at 18, he said, okay, Tiger, do what you have to do. And Tiger did not do it on that occasion. He did it two weeks later at Bay Hill, but at the same time, Phil came very close to beating him again last week. Intimidation factor is possibly not what it was. I think the competition is catching up, and it's amazing how that does happen with someone dominating the way that Tiger did last year; that it's amazing how the competition has to look at itself, and we all have. I think we are all better, stronger than we were. It's amazing. Now he has to keep going, as well, you know, to keep -- as I had to do, to keep ahead of everyone else in Europe. I suppose he has to keep ahead of everyone else in the world, and he has to improve at the same time, or else he will be caught up eventually.
Q. Question about the World Rankings, since they are used as a criteria now for the Masters and U.S. Open. Do you feel that the European Tour is getting enough points, as compared to the PGA TOUR? Do you think it is fair in that respect?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: I think so, yes. I think we have nine members now in the Top-20 in the world. If you include Ernie and Jesper in that, we have nine out of the Top-20 in the world now, which is the highest that we have ever had. So I'm sure that the points that we receive now based on our performances are justified, yeah.
Q. As a follow-up to that, the winner of DyDo Drinco Shizuoka Open -- tour something --?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: I don't know that one. (Laughter.)
Q. The winner of that tournament last week received more World Ranking points than Norman and Vijay and Steve Lowery did for finishing fourth at Bay Hill. Does that seem right?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Well, obviously the tournament you mentioned -- I can't pronounce it right now. Obviously, a very good one. (Laughter.) I'm sorry, I might be connected with IMG, but I don't have any connection with the World Rankings. Otherwise, I would be a lot higher than obviously I am. (Laughter.) But I don't have any -- I can't say. Tony Greer is the guy on that, I'm afraid. I don't know what is going ton.
Q. As a competitor that has played in tournaments like Bay Hill --?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: You would have an argument. You would have a good argument on that one, wouldn't you? But winning anywhere, wherever you are in the world now is always quite difficult to win. But you've got an argument.
Q. If you could have any tee time you wanted, when would it be?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Oh, yeah, definitely 12:10 and 7:20 would be the times I would pick, and of course, I've been very lucky here and I've got that. (Laughter.) I'm very fortunate this week.
Q. Same as last week?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Last week was much better going off last. The greens were much, much better off last and I got fortunate there, too. (Laughing).
Q. What would be your ideal time? Are you like everybody else; you like the 10:30 tee time? I know you want to be in the last pairing on Sunday?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Actually, my times this week are actually okay. I'm quite happy with the times this week, to go off first. First on the course, that's great.
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