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June 14, 2000

Colin Montgomerie


LES UNGER: Good morning, and thank you for joining us this morning. I'm going to take a rare moment to reminisce a bit. The first time I ever sat up at the podium and did interviews was in 1992, and on the last day, we were assigned to walk with groups, the last six or seven groups, and I was assigned to the seventh group, and had just gone through the 7th hole when on the radio I was told to come back to the press tent, because Mr. Montgomerie had finished even; and with the conditions that were there, we needed to do a interview. Well, not being a very good long-distance runner, I did make it, but I was rather frazzled when I got there and we did an interview. And I'll say to this group here: It just didn't hold up because Tom Kite went ahead. But that was the first chance I had to sit next to Colin, and I hope there will be more. How about telling us a little bit about the course as you've seen it so far this week.

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Yeah, I think we all feel that the course has been set up in a very fair way. 1992 was -- the rough, as we know, was very, very severe. This year, they've concentrated on trying to make the greens harder, firmer, and quicker on the surface, and that's what they've achieved. Although, the rough is less severe all around the course, I think the course has been playing tougher, because the greens are firmer and have a quicker surface on top. So, although it might seem easier, it's not.

LES UNGER: As I look through the record of the last eight years, you don't have a number one there, which I'm sure you're shooting for, but you've had a extremely good record in the Open. What about the Open appeals to you or why do you play so well?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: I enjoy it. I enjoy the toughness of the setup of these particular courses, and I've happened to hit more fairways than anyone else. And that's a good start. I feel if I can hit the fairways, then I can hit the greens and then you have a birdie putt. If you don't hit the fairways, you aren't having many birdie putts. So that's what I've tried to concentrate on, and that's been the key to my success playing U.S. opens is that I can hit more fairways than most people, and that's what I'm trying to do again this week.

Q. Of the Open courses you've played, where do you rate Pebble Beach?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: This is more unique than the other, what we'll call the East Coast, older U.S. Open style courses that we've played. This is a unique venue and a very good one. And even the holes away from the ocean are very good and very tough golf holes. So, overall, it's a fantastic golf course.

Q. Is it among your favorites?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: It might be, if I win. (Laughter).

Q. Colin, yesterday Phil Mickelson said that due to the size and firmness of the greens, he is considering trying to not even attempt to hit certain greens; trying to layup and trying to get up-and-down. How unusual of a strategy is that, and would you ever consider such a strategy?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Perhaps with Phil Mickelson's short game, I might. I'm trying to hit the balls as close to the pin as I possibly can. There are certain holes, I agree, that if you do attempt to go for the pin and you do go for the back, you could make a double-bogey very easily. So I understand his course management theory there. But actually trying to miss the green, I've never, ever tried to do that, no.

Q. Colin, could you speak about the impact Tiger has had on golf, and what his presence has come to mean at a major?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: I didn't get the second part of the question.

Q. What Woods' presence at a major has come to mean?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Well, I don't have long enough to talk about the impact that Tiger Woods has made on golf right now. I don't have the time; we'd be here for a while, okay? Tiger Woods' presence at any tournament, whether a major or not, makes it a bigger and better tournament. And we're all anxious as players and as media, I'm sure, and the public would agree that we're all looking for one score all the time, and it's his. And he has made a huge impact to us all, and it's been beneficial to the game of golf.

Q. Could you talk a little bit about that '92 Open? It was the first one you played; a lot of people thought that score was going to hold up. Would you relive those few hours while you were waiting for everybody to finish?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Yeah, I happened to play the first six holes without much wind, and then the 7th hole it started picking up. I had six clear holes, really, that the leaders didn't have. And when I came through, the 17th, as you know, shares the tee with the 4th; and that was the last group had just teed off at the 4th hole, and I was coming through the 17th. That was the time delay. And at that stage, I was 1-under for the tournament. I heard -- I forget who was in the last group, Andy Dillard, I think, was doing well, I'm not sure, and his caddy was saying, "Well, there's your winner." Because they were already 3-over or something for the round, and had only played three holes, and it wasn't getting easier. I managed to bogey 17, which was a good result, and then par the last. And I must admit, I thought at that stage when I finished that round -- I holed a very good putt at the last, about a 5-footer left-to-right, and I felt that was -- I holed that putt to win. I must admit that was a real -- I felt over the putt that putt was to win the tournament. And as it turned out, it didn't. But to give credit to Tom Kite, but also to Jeff Sluman, who played very, very well to take second. So it was one of these things. It could have happened, and it just didn't, and ended the day.

Q. I wonder if you could just share some thoughts and reflections on the Ryder Cup and that moment when Payne Stewart conceded the putt on No. 18, and if you've had some thoughts this week, as well, about Payne?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Sure. I think we all have had many thoughts about Payne this week. And to answer your question, at the Ryder Cup, he was very much a gentleman to me, as everyone is aware, having the odd problem with a couple of our friends from Boston, and it wasn't very easy. And Payne, I think to the detriment of his own game helped me out, and I'll always remember that. As regards the 18th, we both had enough, really, to be honest. He played three shots to the green, and I played a couple, and I don't think, to be honest, he wanted to have a putt himself, never mind mine. He didn't want to miss a putt on the last. We were both about 20-foot away, I believe, and he didn't want to miss a putt, and I had had enough as well; so it was almost an agreement between the two. But he happened to come over and pick his ball up and come over and shake my hand, because we both had enough of that competition for that particular day. And the tournament had been won by America, anyway. So it had little effect on the result.

Q. Level par is a different total this time. Would you take the revised level par or 284 or what do you think will be close?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Yes, I don't think -- par doesn't really mean much. It's the total score at the end of the day. And I think that 284, which is now level par, I think will be the winning score. It was 3-under last time and the greens were much, much softer, and putted two or three feet slower. So I feel that level par will be your winning score this year, 284. It doesn't matter whether it's 10-over or 10-under. It doesn't matter. 284 is what people are aiming for. A lot of players would take that before we start.

Q. Colin, when you have had chances to win a major, how difficult is it to put that out of your mind when you play in majors, especially those like the Open, where you think you have a good chance?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: I have to be honest. It's not a normal golf tournament; so everyone feels that way, and I'm no different. It's just that I've had a reasonable career here and haven't won a major; so, yes, there's slightly more pressure on the situation. But it won't affect me in any way, shape or form in my life-style or life, if I do happen to win a major. It won't affect me in any way. As I say, I just would like to do it; but if I don't, well, I've had a good run, you know? I've just been unfortunate at the end that someone has done better than me, and that's the way of golf.

Q. Obviously, '92 is a focal point for a lot of us here regarding yourself. What would you say are the main differences in your game, and perhaps also your character between now and '92?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: '92, I came here, my first U.S. Open; I didn't know what to expect and I did rather well. I'm a better golfer now. I strike the ball much better. I feel I'm stronger, I'm mentally stronger than I was, and technically a better player than I was. And hopefully, that will help. The trouble is the 150 other competitors have improved, as well; so I haven't gained anything, really. But I feel I'm a better golfer and can cope with the situation better than I could in '92.

Q. If you look at the scores you put up in the Open, first rounds and final rounds have been great. The middle two rounds probably were what kept you from winning a couple of these. Is there anything to that pattern, why it's happened that way?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: '97 was -- if I ever look back on my career, and having not won a major, '97 was the one that I would look back on the second day. I shot 65 the first day, and then 76, and then I threw in 67 and 69. These three scores, the first, third and fourth days are plenty to win a U.S. Open, especially on a course like Congressional. Unfortunately, '96 wasn't. I had played the previous week in England. I won the tournament in England the week before and I was tired. And jet lag is a thing that hits people at certain stages, and it hit me Friday afternoon. It was a rain delay and had to come back out Friday afternoon, and didn't finish particularly strong, and that -- if I ever get to the stage of not winning a major, that was the round of golf that I will look back on and say I would have done differently, by not playing possibly the week before and by doing something different. That's why I've come here, having played six tournaments in a row. And I'm playing very well, then I've had a week off coming in here, and I've tried to counter that mistake that I made in '97.

Q. Could you talk a little bit about your swing mechanics, and your fundamentals in what you've tried to do with your golf swing; and secondly, maybe some thoughts on Mark James?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: The first question won't take long, (laughter) because you probably know more about my swing mechanics than I do. Really, it's as simple as taking aim and hitting. I don't think about anything on the golf course. When I play well, I'm sure the other pros do the same thing. There's not much there at all. I've always had the ability to stand up and hit a ball. So I don't think about anything when I'm hitting the ball, apart from hopefully where it's going to go. The second question regarding Mark James' book. As many people have asked me in Britain for comments regarding the book, I haven't read the book. I believe it's not on the shelves as yet at home, and I can only give you a comment about that when and if I happen to read it.

Q. Colin, Tiger is changing his balls this week, in terms of the Nike. What do you think about a player changing equipment, changing anything about their game the week of a major?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Well, I mean, I would have to say that would be a mistake under normal circumstances. Before you write that down, let me finish -- the "under normal circumstances" was the bit I was trying to get to. I believe Tiger won The Memorial with that ball. Well, he's tested it, hasn't he? Good, I'm glad you've stopped writing. (Laughter).

Q. Colin, I was wondering if you could talk about the stretch of holes, 8, 9 and 10 here and how key that is to the round?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Well, they're all key. 1 to 7, which before as the 2nd hole was a par-5, we felt we had to be under par after seven holes or else there was trouble around here. Now it's more like, okay, we can't afford to be over par after 7, certainly, because you're a long way ahead. 8, 9, 10 are as tough as 11, 12 and 13; you can bogey or double any of them. So that's -- I don't think about particular holes. I'm trying to score the best I can on any particular one and do the best I can, and I'm not thinking about particular holes out there. It's just the first hole on Thursday is as important as the last hole on Sunday. So there's nothing different there.

Q. Colin, Tiger would have probably nearly finished his round as you tee off. Will you check what he's done, and will that have any impact on the way you play the course?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: No, no. I have a -- after having played the course yesterday, I have a plan of attack to try to be level par after two days. Now, I have a harder start tomorrow. I'm off at 1:00. So obviously, the wind will have picked up and the greens will have dried out and firmed up. So I've got a difficult job to score level tomorrow afternoon. But I've got an easier time on Friday at 8:00. So they even themselves out. I'm trying to get to level par by Friday evening. That's my goal the first two days. Whatever anyone else does, I feel level par on Friday evening will put me in a good frame to go into the weekend. That's what I'm trying to do. I won't deliberately double-bogey the last, if I'm 2-under. (Laughter). But at the same time, level is a target right now.

Q. You mentioned a minute ago, essentially, about picking out a target and swinging. Have you ever spent a great deal of time refining and retooling your swing, or has it always come very natural to you?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Yes, I think you've answered your own question; it has come very naturally to me, and I'm very fortunate to say that. I've never had much problem taking aim at the golf club and hitting it where I want to hit it, and I'm very fortunate saying that. People have had problems, but my problems have occurred trying to get the ball in the hole. So we all have our problems. I just happen to not have one hitting it.

Q. You didn't answer the second part of the question. Talking about '92 and your changing technique, he asked if you would explain how you felt your character had changed, and I would like to ask you that question. How do you think your character has changed?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Sorry. I thought I had by saying that I'm mentally stronger, which is character. And having come here in '92, having only won two events in Europe, and now coming to this tournament having won 30 events around the world, there's a big difference. I feel that I have been through certain situations in majors now where nothing much would surprise me. I've been in playoffs. I've lost by shots. I thought I'd won this one. I've been through enough to learn, hopefully, and to be able to cope with any situation that's thrown against me here and for ages to come. And I feel that my character is a lot tougher than it was before, and I'm as determined as ever. And I just hope that Lady Luck throws in a shot or two to my side, and the weather -- and the weather is against one of my opponents. That's just the way it goes, and it hasn't happened yet.

Q. Do you think you're owed a bit of luck?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: No. I don't think you're owed anything. You make your own luck and your own game. No, I'm not owed anything. I just -- I'm a great believer in a winner of any tournament, whether a major or not, has never, ever stood up and written a speech and said he was unlucky.

LES UNGER: Colin, thank you very much, and good luck this week.

End of FastScripts…

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