June 15, 1999
PINEHURST, NORTH CAROLINA
LES UNGER: We're back at the United States Open press room. Welcome to all those visitors on The Golf Channel. We have Colin Montgomerie who has been a factor in U.S. Opens for a long time. And I'm sure he hopes one of these times he'll have the lowest number. What do you think the chances are that will happen this year.
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Well, you all start from scratch and see what happens. I'm obviously confident. And the fellow that's going to win this week has to start confident. I don't think you're going to find a game here. I think it's one of these events where you've got to bring a game with you, as opposed to finding it here. And I'm certainly confident and have brought a good game of golf here; so we'll see what happens. I'm obviously, as I say, confident, and I've got to be that way. There's no point in not being, whether I was or not. I'm trying to talk myself into it. So we'll see what happens. But I like the look of the course, and as I've said many, many times, I think this is my most favorite tournament of the year. And I look forward to this week in the calendar, and hopefully, as you say, one day, I might just have the lowest score.
LES UNGER: You've come off two recent victories.
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Yes, the Benson and Hedges tournament and Volvo. Two of the strongest in the field, and it's nice to win these two. And that obviously means that I'm coming in here full of confidence; so we'll see how we go. But there are a number of players as confident as I am; so that should be a good event.
LES UNGER: You've had a chance to play here. I'm not sure you played before this year, but what are your feelings?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: I haven't played before, but I played today. And as I said earlier, I like the course. Everybody that comes in here must say the same thing, that they are surprised, in a way, to find the fairways a little more generous than normal, and the runoffs of the greens is not what we're used to. But in a way it might favor the Europeans. The runoffs are quite similar to Augusta in many ways, and we've won 11 out of the last 20 of them; so it might well favor the European player here for the first time in many years.
Q. Talk about maybe favoring the Europeans. But what about you, given your history at Augusta and chipping, the greens and all that?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Well, I think my job here is -- my caddy is quite funny. He gets -- at every green he says "Middle of green is okay." And I think he probably said that 18 times today. And I feel that I hit most fairways, which is good. And from there I can hit the middle of the greens, forgetting where the pin is. I think you'll have some error, and it's difficult at the top of the backswing to actually play away from a pin. I think you've got to be patient around here and do that, because if you start attacking this type of course, you're in trouble. And I'm just trying to hit the fairways and hit the greens, and that will give me enough birdie chances to hole a few of them. And obviously, there will be the odd mistake. That's going to happen. But if you're counteracting that by the odd birdie here and there, well, that's okay. So that's all I'm trying to do, personally. What I was trying to say regarding the Augusta field is that the likes of this type of course brings in a possibility of a win for the likes of a player like Olazabal, who might not hit the ball as straight to some of the tees. These fairways are giving him more chance of doing that, and use his enormous talent around the greens and imagination, which this will take.
Q. It was 1970 when Tony Jacklin was the last European to win. Do you remember seeing that as a child, and is that any kind of motivation for you?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: I think it's motivation for every British golfer, and also European golfer to try and emulate that feat. I think it's been too long, really, we feel. It's almost 30 years now since a European or British golfer has won this course. Faldo has lost in playoffs, and so have I, and we've been quite close. It's a matter of being patient and trying to walk through when that door is half ajar. It's the point of walking through it and not finishing second.
Q. With rain today and rain tomorrow, what do you think about a winning score?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Winning scores, you can't think about that. I think what's going to happen Thursday is one of this field is going to play very well and score very well. I think, however tough the pins are with the softness of the greens, I think what's going to happen if we have rain tomorrow, which is forecast, is that one of these players is going to have a very good day. I'm talking 5-under type of day. And then God help us the next day, because they're going to put the pins in some difficult positions. So anything around par, I'd take that right now and run.
Q. Could you tell us whether you have, in your experience, found any other course that posts as many questions around the greens? And secondly, how many different clubs did you use around the greens today?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: To answer your first question, I don't think there's any course like this with -- there's the odd upturned saucer green on golf courses, and there might be even a third, even six of them, not 18 of them. And it's very unique that way. So, no, this is -- this course is unique in that respect. You can see the -- you play the 2nd and the 5th hole, the par-3's at Dornoch, and you see that the greens have been copied from that, but 18 of them. Your second question has slipped my mind. How many different clubs have I used around the greens? The old wedge isn't really used very much. You can practice as much as you want the last week with the old wedges, and it's out completely. What I do is putt from positions away from. And I always feel like it might sound negative, but a bad putt always beats a bad chip. And I find that in that circumstance with the graininess around the greens, that a bad putt is always beating a bad chip. And I'll find that I'm putting the ball an awful lot.
Q. You haven't used a 3-wood or 5-wood?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: A 3-wood or a 5-wood for a shot of ten yards doesn't really make a lot of sense to me.
Q. You've played well in the Open in the past. Have you found that you've accepted the conditions early on in the week and that feeling has carried over to the tournament itself, or is it a case where your game is just clicking and it was just a week-long experience, a week-long process?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: It's very much a week-long process. On Thursday -- you can do one thing on Thursday, and that's lose it; you can't win it. And Friday is exactly the same. And so is Saturday. Sunday is different. You can go out and try and win it on Sunday. So it is a week-long process, and it starts on the first hole on Thursday morning. I've got a good time on Thursday morning of 7:40 tee time, which is good. I'll go out and attempt to hit the fairway at the 1st, and hit the middle of the green the first hole. And I'll try to do that for the next 71 holes, as well.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about where the difference in style between Europeans and Americans comes from? How does that develop and how has that affected European TOUR over the years?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: I feel the American TOUR is a more consistent TOUR around the greens. I mean that generally you're having rough around the greens, and the American TOUR are probably stronger playing that particular shot than we are. They're more comfortable doing it. When it comes to having to use more imagination, possibly, like our courses, we're going from country to country, and different grasses to different grasses every week. We don't have the same shot for the particular type of play, so I think that advantage of the American TOUR is taken away on a course such as this, because now we're all feeling uncomfortable, as opposed to just us.
Q. Back in Europe, your plan had been to win two out of three, and with quality fields, can you talk about confidence and not finding your game here? Does that give you added confidence here and a better feeling like this has also been a target of yours for a while?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Well, sure. I mean, I said I would like to try to win two out of the next three tournaments. It just so happened that I did. Here is a similar golf tournament. You've got 72 holes, and we'll add them up at the end, really, and that's what it is. I'm just happy coming in here playing well and hitting the ball where I want to put it. And I feel as good as I did coming into this event as I did, possibly at Congressional, when I came off a win coming into that event. And I feel as comfortable now as I did then.
Q. Monte, congratulations on your good start in Europe to this point. Just curious, how would you describe the way you believe you are viewed by American golfing fans? How do you think they view you?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: How do they view me?
Q. What do they think of you, the way you perceive it?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: I've never really thought about it, to be honest. I really don't know. I've never thought about it. I suppose -- I don't know. Such a good question, you've stumped me. (Laughter.)
Q. Do you think they've warmed to you?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: They've warmed to me, i.e. it was cold before? (Laughter.)
Q. Well, why don't we start it at Congressional and get your take on perhaps how you were treated at Congressional?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Congressional was unfortunate. The way Congressional happened, the 17th green was very close to the 18th one. There was an awful lot of noise before I tried to hole my putt at 17. And it was possibly up until that stage, the most important putt that I was attempting to hole; so I wasn't going to rush it, that's for sure. So that was all that happened there. But, no, I think I get similar treatment, I really do feel, than any other European or foreign player that comes over to America. Augusta was great this year, and I enjoyed playing that course, and I've had a lot of support out here today; so I don't feel that your comment about "warmed" obviously means something was cool before. I don't feel that.
Q. How badly do you burn to win here in the U.S.? You've done pretty much all that anybody could ever want to do in Europe. How badly do you burn to win here?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: I would like before my career finishes, I would like to win a tournament in the U.S., whether it be the Honda Classic or Bay Hill Classic, whatever the tournament might be. I'd like to win in the U.S. It just so happens that I come over more for the major championships than not. Because I've come so close in this particular event, I'd like to take that one step further. Before my career finishes, I'd like to say that I won in America, whatever tournament it might be.
Q. Getting back to the course setup, Lee Westwood commented on how he was disappointed about the rough having been cut down a little bit. Does it take away one of your edges at a U.S. Open setup?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: I wouldn't have it five inches. I'd have it five feet high (Laughter.) What it is going to do this week is actually bring in the use of the driver more than most. And because the fairways are four or five yards wider than normal, people are going to use drivers, and because of that fact, miss the fairways as much as if they used 2-irons or 3-woods. The fairways are generous, because we're used to fairways of 23, 24 yards across, or even less. Just because they've suddenly become 28, that doesn't mean that they're wide. They're generous for U.S. Opens. They're not wide.
Q. Does it still feel like a U.S. Open to you when you look at it?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Very much so, yes. Very much so.
Q. You might not have felt the American fans have been cold to you before, but the last year in the Open, your playing partners the first two rounds, Furyk and Duval, were embarrassed at some of the antics.
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Sometimes. It's always the minority that upsets the majority. I'm glad that David and Jim spoke out, and it was fine. I appreciate what they said.
Q. Can you tell us about your preparation for this week? Did you do anything specific last week in terms of pitching and putting?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: In terms of playing golf?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: No. I don't play golf when I'm at home. That's possibly why I've been as successful as I have, that I can get away from it and don't miss it. No, after I finished the English Open on Sunday, the first time I picked up a club was here. And no, I don't practice at home. I like to get away from it. And I don't miss it.
Q. Did you just arrive yesterday?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Yes.
Q. The original thought was you might come in a few days early and try to a climatize, what changed your mind?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Yes, I'm a great believer in trying to play my best golf Thursday through Sunday. That's why I'm here. A lot of the time that I've spent coming earlier to tournaments, I've left all my good shots in practice, and there's nothing much left for the week. And I think it's a very long week, and it's a very mentally-draining week, more than it is physically or technically. It's much more a mental challenge, this. And that's tiring, more tiring than it is technically or physically. And I feel that because of that, I want to give myself enough time to be fresh for Thursday morning, than it would be on Sunday. I've lost before because I've been tired, over the weekend, possibly, and this week I feel that I'll be fresher.
LES UNGER: Can you feel the greens getting softer? (Rain pouring down.)
Q. What do you really think is the one reason that you haven't won here in the United States?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: If there was one reason that I would put down to it? He said I missed one too many shots. I don't feel that I've actually putted well enough. When you think of -- you think about Steve Elkington in the US PGA, I had 17 more putts than him for the week. That's an awful lot to give away, especially when you're tied for the lead. I've never blamed my long game, my driving or my iron play. I can always say that I just haven't possibly holed out as well as the winner has. Even at Congressional two years ago, Ernie and I were holding out and holding out, and unfortunately on 17, I was the one that missed it, and it was the one time. And I feel if I was to put my finger on one thing that was the cause of me not winning, was because I haven't possibly holed out the way that I'd like to.
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: I think there's more players now, particularly because of the setup. I think there are more players capable of winning. There's quite a small nucleus of players that would win a U.S. Open that's been set up the way that we're used to in the past, and I think this has given more opportunity for more players to win.
Q. Who chose that color, the shirt?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Who chose the color? That's a good one. Just matching my watch. And my shoes. And my socks. I have no idea who chose the color. I did.
Q. It suits you.
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Oh, thank you.
Q. Seeing as this course was designed by a native Scot, would you it mean a lot to you to win?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: There are a lot of good courses designed by Scots. This is one of them. You see his name is down in Augusta helping out. There's an awful lot of good courses around the world designed by Scots. There's not many that aren't. (Laughter.)
Q. Do you actually see any links in this course, any hint of links?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Yes, there's a few holes you feel that have a links feel to them. I feel that 7, I thought, was quite links go in its feel. And there's a few others as well. There's a few par-3's that have that links feel to them. Yes, you can see what the designer was trying to achieve and has achieved it very well, yes.
LES UNGER: Thank you and good luck.
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