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June 12, 1997

Colin Montgomerie


LES UNGER: Congratulations on a terrific opening round.


LES UNGER: Six 3s on the back 9. I wonder if in your wildest aspirations, you expected this on the first day?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: As I said, when I came here the other day, that obviously I was confident with what I was doing. And, it's just nice to come to such a big event as this, and my favorite event, and prove it. But, obviously, this is the first round of four, and it's just nice to have 5-under in the bank already, because I'm sure I'll need them all as the week progresses.

LES UNGER: I wonder if you wouldn't mind, please, going through the card so we can get the birdies and the distances and the details of that.

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Yeah, sure. I set off and hit an 8-iron to 8 foot of the first and missed it. Then a 2-iron to 6 foot at the second and missed it, and a 5-iron to 4 foot at third and missed it. And, so, when I missed the fairway at the 6th hole and had to hack out with a sand wedge and very important 8-iron, that was the most important shot of the day. I hit an 8-iron 157 and hit it stiff. That kept the momentum going so I could birdie 7. Hit a 7-iron to 3 foot. And then on 9, hit a 3-wood, sand wedge to 8 foot, missed it. Then 9, hit a sand wedge to 6 foot and holed that, so that kept the momentum going. 10 was a 3-wood, 4-iron to 10 feet. 11 was a 3-wood wedge to 15 feet. 13 was a 3-wood 7-iron to 4 feet. 16 was a 3-wood 8-iron to 4 feet. And, if there was one shot I suppose I'd like to have back again, it was the second shot on 17 from the middle of the fairway. But, to say that you only have one shot back or require one shot back again is quite nice to say, and I pushed it right in the bunker, didn't get up-and-down. Hit a good putt from about 15 foot, but it missed. Then I played safe the last with a 6-iron into the middle of the green. I wasn't going for any heroics at that stage. I just wanted off with a 3. Delighted, obviously, with a 65. As I said, I might need them all as the week progresses.

LES UNGER: Was it the 10th hole, the one a lot of fellows didn't think could be birdied?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Well, I mean, yeah, 6 and 10 are probably the toughest par 4s on the course. But, it makes a big difference when you're on the fairway as I am -- mostly I can hit good iron shots. My distance control today with my iron shots was as good as I've ever seen it. If I hit it 158 to the pin, I hit it 158. If I had 178, I hit it 178. That makes a difference. Let's hope that continues. If I can continue to hit the fairways and iron shots the right distance, which is vital around here, because the greens are very sloping and very fast, I'll be okay.

Q. Colin, you were cruising along at even par for 6 holes. What got you started on your birdie ride there and were you pleased with the way you were playing because you were certainly so patient and was that also the key to the round?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Yeah, sure. I mean, any player that comes here needs the word "patience" to score today. But, 6 was vital for me today. After missing three opening birdie chances, 6 was the most vital hole of the day. And, that kept it going to enable me to hit a good shot in at 7. If I'd missed that par attempt at 6, for instance, if I'd made 5, which was on the cards, to go to 1-over, I possibly wouldn't have birdied 7 and therefore not 9 and 10 and 11 and, what have you, so 6 was the most important par I've made for a long time.

Q. Colin, two-part question. You've been one of the top players the last few years. You've been so close. A: Do you feel like the majors kind of owe you one? And, B: How much do you attribute your weight loss to your good play in the last, you know, many months and couple of years?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Well, firstly, no tournament owes me anything. I have to go out and earn it. Yes, I've been close a couple of times at this event. It doesn't owe me anything. I have to earn whatever I achieve here. And, my weight loss was doing quite well. It's not what it was. But, we'll see about the weight loss. I don't want to talk about the weight loss too much.

Q. I mean, has that helped your game?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: It did throughout last year, but I've been -- I don't know, I haven't worked out as much or haven't spent as much attention on it as I possibly should.

Q. Would you tell us why the U.S. Open is your favorite tournament? Weren't you at odds a little bit with the gallery last year at Oakland Hills?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: That's a question. I don't remember me being at odds with any galleries at the U.S. Open. I love it here. I'm as happy playing in the U.S. Open as Tiger Woods is playing The Masters. This is a tournament where I'm very, very comfortable. I'm very -- sort of look forward to any round of golf and any shot I hit. I tend to drive the ball as straight as anybody. And, that is a great advantage here. And, my iron shots off good lies are usually quite good. And, if I can hole some putts and keep them below the hole, and what have you, I can score. So, I'm very happy playing U.S. Opens. I just wish there were more tournaments set up this way. I have to say, for starters, this course is as good a conditioned course as you will find anywhere, to mow the fairways with the green mowers back and forth is tremendous. And, I went out there this morning. My caddie was out trying to get the pins at six o'clock and they're out mowing the fairways, 30 of them, or something this morning. All credit to them for making such a fantastic course to enable me to hit the fairways and have such great, great lies to enable yourself to hit such good iron shots. But, I'm comfortable here because I hit so many fairways, and that's why I'm comfortable here.

Q. I just heard what you said about the Open. But, you've called it your favorite event. I would think that maybe that term next month would be more important in your mind?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: No, it's not. The British Open at Royal Troon, obviously, is something I've looked forward to since it was announced that it was '97, and I don't have to qualify for the thing. But, this, to me is my favorite tournament of the year. I look forward to this. I've said that many times, and to start out with a 65 only gives me more confidence of what I'm doing. And, it is a very, very demanding golf course. And, as I say, I'm glad I've got that in the bank and hopefully I don't need them. But, possibly, I will.

Q. Colin, you missed several putts early and then started making them. Did you make a specific adjustment or what did you do differently?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: No, I didn't. No, actually, I hit reasonable putts on 1, 2, and 3. I saw Tiger Woods on the third, especially have my putt. I had it for birdie. He had it for par. And, we both missed it in the same place. It just tended to break or not break as much as we thought. But, no, there was no difference. Just trying to be patient and trying to say, okay, well, this one might go in; this one might go in, and, they eventually started dropping.

Q. Colin, two questions: The first one is how do you rate this round in your career, particularly a major championship? I know that the 65 a couple of years ago was your best to date. How do you rate this with that? The other thing is can you talk a bit about the snake at the 18th.

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Yeah, this round -- although this round was one -- I mean, I was 6-under round Oakmont the second day, shot 65 round there. But, this -- I believe it is a tougher test of golf than Oakmont, and I hit the ball certainly better today through the green ball-strikingwise than I ever have. This is possibly in major golf the best round of golf I've ever put together. The snake at the last, these things happen. It came out of the water, I believe, and that was that. The crowd seemed more intent on watching the snake than me trying to putt for 64, which was fine. It took the pressure off a bit. So, that was fine. But, these things happen. It was right in the walkway from the bridge to the green.

Q. Was it wearing a press badge?

LES UNGER: No press badge.

Q. Colin, you talked about having this round in the bank. Can you talk about what this round does to set you as far as your mental approach and how you feel going into Round 2?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Yeah, I've often said especially major golf and especially this type of tournament that you never win -- you never win the tournament the first two days. You can only lose it. And, that's important for me to keep in there. It's one of these courses where you can't really attack and come back into things very easily. You've got to have it. And that's what I meant by having a 5-under on the board and safely in there, that it's nice that I can go out tomorrow with a different feeling as opposed to have to attack or to make cuts or to get back into contention. That's what I meant by that.

Q. You know, for driving the ball so straightly, can you talk about your decision to hit so many 3-woods today and how many times have you used the driver?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Very easy to answer that. I didn't use my driver once today. It stayed in the bag. I used my 3-wood 15 times, three par 3s. I used it 15 times. I just stood up at the first tee today, hit the first fairway, and then the third, and felt quite comfortable with it and the length it was going. I just kept going with it. I never changed. I didn't bother hitting a driver at all. There's possibly a myth about this course where you need length. You need accuracy much more than you do need length. And, I'm long enough lucky enough to be able to hit my 3-wood. That's what I did, I hit it every hole.

LES UNGER: Was that a change in the strategy that you had earlier?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: I was planning on hitting my driver on holes like No. 6 and holes like No. 17, but I just felt comfortable with what I'm doing and I kept going with it. I'm one of these people that don't like to mess around too much, if it's going that way, I'll stick with it.

Q. How far --

LES UNGER: Distance, please, approximate distance on your 3-wood.

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Well, yeah, I mean, I can -- I mean, there was a couple of -- hole 16, for instance, that, I was just short of the bank. It was a 296 run out -- I hit it from 285 to 265 and that's ample, ample length for any course, I hope.

Q. Colin, do you go into a tournament like this with an expectation of a score it might take and then when you have a score like you had today, you talk about being able to not be as aggressive over the next three rounds; do you worry about getting defensive?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Yeah, not particularly. I don't think of winning scores because the USGA have a knack of dictating how we can score by setting up the course differently. But, no, I feel that you just try your best and take one shot at a time and put the best swing on or the best putt on or try to think properly and the course management on every shot, different shot and not think -- not get ahead of yourself and think of 68 or 67, whatever the case may be. You try your best and think of one shot at a time and that's what I'm thinking of. I'm not thinking about the 18th hole or 17 and how difficult it might be. I'm trying to think, a long 15, I'm trying to hit the fairway with a tee shot and course strategy at that 15th hole, so I'm not thinking about winning scores at all. I know if I play well from now on, I have a good chance and that 65 has aided that chance of winning. But, that's all it is. It's only a good start and there's an awful long way to go.

Q. Colin, within that context, the beginning of the golf course has played level par for most of the names on the leaderboard and then they moved into red numbers about halfway through the front 9. Is that a particularly difficult stretch of the golf course?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Sorry, the front -- the first six holes are difficult. Yeah, they are. It's like any major, I suppose, the first hole is possibly as easy as it gets as a par 4, but because it's the first hole, very difficult hole to birdie. Yeah, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th are very difficult par 4s, they all are. It doesn't matter how long they are. You still have to hit the fairways, still have to hit the greens. But 8, 9 give as much of a chance as there is a chance and then you get hit with the 10th which is very difficult. Then you've got 13, 14. There's not many chances at all. But, yes, it seems to work that way.

Q. Colin, we've been hearing all week about how long the course is and how the long hitters are going to dominate. Did you never buy into that?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Not particularly. As I said, I'm long enough to cope, but I'm accurate enough to cope. That's No. 1 in any U.S. Open course is the accuracy that you attain. And, I was fortunate today, I hit 14 out of 15 fairways. And, if I can do that for the rest of the week, well, I won't be far away, but, I've got to do that. I've got to keep doing that. You can't compete from the rough here. It doesn't matter how long you hit it, you just can't compete if you're in the rough.

Q. Colin, you were applauded for skipping a tournament recently to help with the kids while your wife was a little under the weather. Would you speak to your priorities and where golf stacks up and so forth in your life?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Yeah, golf is very much a job for me. And, I have a lovely wife and two lovely daughters. And, they're one, two and three in my life, and golf is very much secondary to that. And, yeah, my wife was ill and I took the week off, the Hamburg week off, the TPC, and decided to play the next week which was fortunate. I happened to win it coming here, and I'll do that again and again. And, golf is very secondary when it comes to family. Family is No. 1 in my life and always will be.

Q. I believe you said that you were happy to get off the 18th hole. Is that a reflection of your feeling of the hole or just the way you felt today?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: It's a reflection of the hole. I think anybody that makes 3 there is quite satisfied. Especially when you're 5-under U.S. Open and you have a 3 for 65, you'll take it, and I took that 3 and got off. The putt had a chance with a couple yards to go but broke a little bit left, but I was delighted to sneak it up there quite close that I could tap it in.

Q. Colin, just to clarify. I think you said you hit 15 3-woods and you hit 14 out of 15 fairways, but isn't there only 14 fairways and did you maybe hit 3-wood on No. 2?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: You'll find on this course, there's only three par 3s. Is there four par 3s?

Q. There are four par 3s and two par 5s.

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Well, there you go. You're right. 13 out of 14. There's 14, okay?

Q. And then you hit 14 3-woods today and not 15, right?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: That would be correct.

Q. What did you hit on No. 2?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: A 2-iron. Well done.

LES UNGER: Likewise. Any more?

Q. Colin, you seemed to walk up to your ball and you were playing very briskly. You looked like you were brimming with confidence with what you've got going. Would that reflect your state of mind?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Definitely. I don't like to dwell on things when I'm trying to play out there. You have to think as positive as possible, and the longer I feel I take over the shot, I can start thinking about a negative point in the shot or something, and I don't want that to happen. So I would rather hit it quicker than slower. The slower I tend to hit the ball, things -- I start thinking negatively, and I don't like that. I've always been quite brisk when I'm over the ball. My putting, as well. I like to think of confident things and not dwell too long on the shot.

Q. Colin, have you won on golf courses that you haven't liked or are you the sort of player you have to go to courses and tournaments that you really enjoy and your chances increase?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: I think anybody -- you know, my schedule in Europe is based around courses now where I do enjoy and do like playing, and generally the sort of tougher the course, the better I tend to do. And like the Irish Open last year was a very tough examination, and I managed to win there. But, yeah, I like -- I like the way that this course is set up, as I said, and I like the toughness of it, and I'll always like it, whether I do well here or not. I look forward to 1998's U.S. Open already.

Q. Colin, can I ask, what is your first memory of a U.S. Open as a lad, and what would it mean to you if you did get the monkey off your back on Sunday and you won and you lost that Tiger being the best player not to win a major?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: I remember watching Tom Watson at Pebble Beach whenever that was, early '80s, I think when he chipped in at 17, and I remember looking at the rough and thinking how difficult that was. And I honestly felt when I finished that round of golf in 1992, when I finished level par and things were happening on the course, I thought I've done the same. I thought I was going to win at Pebble Beach, but it wasn't to be, and -- but, no, I think I just love this course and this tradition of it and the way that the courses are set up.

Q. You're one of the best players in the world. I wonder where you would put winning a major, how complete that would make your career or how incomplete you would feel if you never won a major?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: I -- people - you media - tend to make out that it's a bigger thing than it actually is. If I never hit a golf ball again, I'll always be proud of what I've achieved already within the European game especially. And I've lost two playoffs in majors. I think you have to be quite fortunate to win one. You have to be in the right position at the right time and play well and you have to have fortune on your side, as well. Obviously, it would complete a career, but it wouldn't be the end of it hopefully. Hopefully if I could do well here and take it forward, then it would give me confidence to know that I'm capable eventually of doing that and take it forward in a month's time which, again, is a very important week for me.

LES UNGER: Okay. Those of you who would like to talk a little bit more I'll ask Colin to stay right here.

End of FastScripts.....

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