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July 7, 2010

Colin Montgomerie


MICHAEL GIBBONS: Welcome. Tradition, 12 o'clock at The Barclays Scottish Open. Give us your thoughts?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: I'm looking forward to it. I think it's fantastic that here we're here, a European Tour event, and European success again with Justin Rose's marvellous win at the AT&T National over in Washington last week. Another fantastic result for European golf again. And for Miguel Angel Jiménez to win in France so well, got himself in prime position to make the team yet again. And we look now to watching Graeme's progress, Graeme McDowell's progress here this week after his fantastic success over at Pebble Beach.
So it's a good time for European golf, very good time, and I'm just honoured to be their captain on this particular occasion. It's made my job extremely difficult to have to select only three from a potential 20 that could easily cope with the pressures of The Ryder Cup. It's going to be a very difficult choice come next month when I have to announce the team at the end of the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles.
It's all good. Everything is fantastic. They are all trying to beat each other. So standards are improving, so it's all exciting, very exciting times.

Q. You always talk about others, and Mickelson has just said that you could win The Open.
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Well, I didn't ever say that I had stopped playing. If I can produce what I did on the New Course At Sunningdale, unfortunately St. Andrews will be slightly tougher. But at the same time, I'm still here to compete as a competitor, and there's people older than me that have won tournaments in Europe. And I'm just delighted to see that I can still produce those scores and compete with.
These are two very big weeks, they always have been for me in my career; The Scottish Open, followed by the British Open, especially when it's in Scotland and especially when it's at St. Andrews. I look forward to it.

Q. When Phil said that, do you think to yourself, he's being polite, or he means it? (Laughter).
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Don't hold back, Lewine, don't hold back. Let's hope he means it. (Laughter) And also thanks for his politeness.

Q. This is a less-pointed question. Why are there so many good, young players coming through now?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Well, I think that seeing the success of Padraig Harrington, I think he started this European roll running after our success at the Masters, especially through the 80s and very early 90s, then we sort of stopped a little bit, apart from Nick's success in '96 that we sort of stopped for a bit, early 2000s and through.
I feel that after Padraig's success in 2007 and 2008, that the Europeans have decided that, okay, well -- and we said this would happen; if he can do it, I can do it.
I've never seen people practise so hard physically, mentally, on every aspect of the game that I've seen this year, especially, and last, on their games. I never worked, ever, as hard as these guys are right now on their games.
I think in any business, and this is a business, I think that with competition, standards improve. If you've got competition, you've got to beat that competition; and therefore, your standards improve. The competition has increased all the standards, and the more competition there is, which there has been, the higher the standards are. And I think that that is a classic example of a business model and it's happened on The European Tour.

Q. That wonderful 62 at Sunningdale, what did that do for your mind-set and how important was it at this point in your career?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Yeah, I played 20 Opens in a row, and this will be my 21st, and I do look forward to it. Not having won The Open, to get an exemption, you have to find a way of qualifying, and to find a way 21 times in a row isn't bad.
So I'm glad about that, for one. And I think to score that and come out of the blue, if you like and for people to say, hang on a minute, he can still play, and it's important that I can prove to myself that I still can.
Sometimes you wonder, you think that sometimes you are -- you've plateaued and you're on the way out. But scores -- don't get me wrong, we are not talking Carnoustie hard, the Sunningdale New Course, and there were a lot of good players, 110 guys competing that.
So it was good to do that third match from the end of the day when the greens were not as good as they would be in the morning, and so I was thrilled. It has given me confidence, of course it has. If I can get off here to a decent start tomorrow afternoon, I think that we can, not just compete in the tournament but hopefully contend and that's the aim the next two weeks.

Q. How much did you genuinely believe in your heart that you could produce something like that?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: The first two holes at Sunningdale were as tough as any, and I birdied the first two and I thought, hang on, game on here, I need another five, how can we do this and I was just working my way through it and eventually came up with another seven which was great and gave me a lot of confidence. As my caddie said, that's the first time he's seen that look from me that he had seen caddying for others, and he had not seen that look, that determined look of mine, and he was encouraged by it himself, and I should take encouragement from that.

Q. Can I just take you back the to question about the Europeans doing well. The Scots have not, in contrast to the English group, or Wales, apart from Graeme McDowell from Northern Ireland; what's your take on that, are they not working hard enough?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Dangerous territory. I didn't say they weren't, not at all. I think that as a population, I think we do very well in golf terms, we really do. I think there's potential in Scotland to come through. They just haven't yet. But there's great potential here in Scotland. There are a number of new pros coming through. I think Marc Warren has not realised his potential yet at all. I think he, of that young crop, has the best potential.
But at the same time, Stephen Gallacher has made some great scores, and Paul Lawrie has been on the board a lot more than in the last five years and something is happening. As I say, the standard throughout The European Tour is increasing and that includes Scotland. We just haven't shown the wins yet, if you like, and the consistent Top-5 finishes, but that will come.
I'm not worried about that at all. I just wish that it would happen quickly so I could captain a Scot on The Ryder Cup Team, I really do. I think that would be fantastic, but the way things are looking, not at this stage, but there are some big tournaments to come yet.

Q. Five years ago you finished second at St. Andrews to Tiger; do you think he's still the man to beat next week?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: The competition, if Tiger plays the way he did in 2000 and 2005, yes, he is. It depends on how he is to cope with the situation that he finds himself in. But at the same time, he's played two majors right now since he came back to play, the Masters and the U.S. Open, and you have to say both, he's finished fourth in both of them. Starting the back nine at Augusta, he had every chance, and starting that last round at Pebble Beach, he had every chance.
So the it would be a tough guy to bet against him on a course that is entirely suited to his strength. which is putting.

Q. Do you think it will be a disadvantage for him to go back home to his family this week?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: I think sometimes a break from the game is a good thing. From what I've seen of his performance the last few weeks on Tour, it might be a positive thing. He knows the course well enough. Just depends; if he brings that fantastic putting stroke of his to the course, he'll have every chance to win again I'm sure.

Q. Is your mood at St. Andrews any different to how it is at other Open venues? What does it do for you?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: I love the place, I do. I think that having won there at the Dunhill Cup and the Dunhill Links. Trying to win that eighth Order of Merit was great for me, especially coming back to St. Andrews after success, if you like, being runner-up a few months previous.
I love the place. I think it's a great town. I just enjoy being there. I'm very comfortable at St. Andrews. I just look forward to teeing off on Thursday and walking down the first fairway and having the support of the spectators there who are the best. They are all golfers, if you like, they all come up to The Open to view golf as golfers.
I look forward to going around the course, I really do, four times, and hopefully to success, because it does give you an opportunity. It is fast-running. It's not one of the longest courses that we play on Open rota, it has been lengthened, but it's not long. Everybody tends to hit the greens in regulations, because it's a big -- it's a matter of one, how close you can get; and two, if you can take the opportunities with the putter.
So I'll be going over early on in that week, Monday, Tuesday, to putt, really. That's all I have to do around there is to get the pace of the greens, to get the roll from the greens, and knowing where the pins are going to be located, we will have a certain advantage as to practising to where they might be.

Q. Just going back to The Ryder Cup, as you know, Justin Rose has won twice in the States in the last month and yet not on your team?

Q. Is that absurd or frustrating or signifies the strength?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Signifies the strengths of others, that's what that does. Two great wins, by the way. I haven't won a stroke-play event in America; I won a match-play event but I've never won a stroke-play event in America. And I was No. 2 in the world at the time and just proves how well he's performed; and it well should have been three, three out of the last four for Justin Rose. He let the lead slip the week, and to come back the week after and win is a fantastic achievement and all credit to him.
It is a shame that he's not in there right now. He's No. 6 out of four, and you know, Luke Donald is not in there, either. That just proves the strength of what we have here. I mean, there's your five, six, seven, eight, you've got Luke Donald, Justin Rose, Padraig Harrington, Martin Kaymer, and they are not in on the World Points list. That proves how strong The European Team. And the top four are Westwood, McIlroy, McDowell and Poulter. That is as strong an eight as you can get right there. And only four can play.
This is my huge dilemma that we have at the Johnnie Walker Championship. I don't think any captain has had this dilemma before, and I unfortunately am going to have to leave out some very, very good players, some winners in this year's circuit in America and/or in Europe; and I say now, I apologise for that fact, having to leave out champions. But unfortunately I've got to because of the strength and depth that we have.

Q. Obviously you have one eye on The Ryder Cup and you have another eye on The Open next week; how difficult is it for you to play and focus this week?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: I can concentrate on the golf course when one tees off, and it's okay on the golf course. When one comes off the golf course, I'm looking at other scores and other scenarios that take place.
So I've got five hours a day, four and a half, it should be less, but I've got to concentrate on my own game and the rest of the day I'm concentrating on others.

Q. All of the recent European successes in America, as you say, has been on one hand, but do you also think that it might make your job easier if the Americans have a point to prove collectively?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: There's no question that we will with the European success this year go into The Ryder Cup as favourites, and therefore with that expectation, could be problematic, because when you are expected to do something, it's the hardest thing. It's like a Premiership going to an on-league ground expecting to win. It sometimes proves difficult.
So we have to just go to this Ryder Cup and prove that we were favourites and are favourites. We have to prove; we have to prove it, and these guys are comfortable in positions where they are put and make sure they are and go out and play their best and I'm convinced that if we play the best, we'll win.
But who says this is going to be easy? This has never, ever been easy. We won 18 1/2 - 9 1/2 at Oakland Hills and 11 matches came down to the last hole and we won nine of them. If that had been in reverse, we would have lost the Ryder Cup and the U.S. won by a record margin. It's close, very close, and let's not ever get away from that fact and this will be a very, very close contest, and the matches are extremely tight, however they go.

Q. Only in Wales, the question would be along lines of, it would involve Rhys Davies in The Ryder Cup and you played with him last week?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: I did, indeed and I'm playing with him again, I believe.

Q. Happenstance or deliberate?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Completely random. I have asked the Tour -- I'll tell you now, that I have asked the Tour to play with European golfers this year. I haven't asked the standard of European golfers because they are all good. It could be Søren Hansen or Chris Wood or it could be Ross Fisher. It's pure coincidence that I'm playing with Rhys Davies two weeks in a row.

Q. And Geoff Ogilvy.
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: He must have European ancestry I don't know about.

Q. The second part of the question is what did you think of him and what would you give for his putting stroke?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Okay. If I had his putting stroke over my career, I would not be sitting here not having won a major. I think it's a very old-fashioned putting stroke, which is a compliment. It's long, it flows, it's got the best rhythm that I've ever seen on a putting stroke and I've never seen anybody over the ball expecting to hole everything the way he does.
So I would say, and I think that if asked, if the Top-100 players were asked, who is the best putter on our tour right now, they would say Rhys Davies, 80 per cent would say him, and what an asset; length, distance, roll and everything else.
If you are not taking opportunities that you are given, you won't win, and he has the best putting stroke out here, and that's why he's pushing for a Ryder Cup spot. And being Welsh, he's under pressure, of course he is. Being young, of course, the same thing. This is only his second year out here, but at the same time, he has been, so, so, so well, and I'm very proud of him. But yes, we would all give our right arm for his putting stroke, yeah.

Q. You more than anyone know what the Americans can be like. How much will they be hurting with all of these Limeys coming over, winning their tournaments?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: It's a bit like the LPGA Tour with the Korean success I suppose and then we come over, and not just the European success, but the South Africans and the Australians. Very rare, not more than 50 per cent Americans in the Top-10 and it happens most weeks. I think it's fantastic that we can go over there and compete in their own backyard. It's a very difficult place, not just to compete but to win. I think Justin Rose has done brilliantly over the last month.

Q. Do you think they don't like it --
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: No, they don't like it. They don't like it. Nor do we if an American comes over and wins over here. We are not -- okay, you say well played, but how can he adapt to those conditions to that degree? It takes a good player to do that, and Justin has proved himself over the last month very, very much, very impressed.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Colin, thanks for joining us.

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