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July 9, 2013

Colin Montgomerie


THE MODERATOR:  Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to welcome Colin Montgomerie here to the media center.  Colin just turned 50 a couple of weeks ago.  Playing in his first U.S. Senior Open.  Finished tied for ninth at the Senior Players Championship in his Champions Tour debut and inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame a little bit earlier this year.
Thank you for joining us.  I'd just like to start off, you're joining some of your slightly older contemporaries now.  Just talk a little bit about what it means to play with them.
COLIN MONTGOMERIE:  Thank you and thank you for your words there of introduction.
I‑‑ delighted.  I met Kenny Perry in the parking lot there and Steve Elkington and a few of the guys that were my contemporaries and peers of mine growing up, playing in the U.S. tour, especially I saw them once really a year when they came over for the British Open on my home turf, but I would come over here and play and enjoy it thoroughly.
So far, so good.  I enjoyed Fox Chapel, the Players Championship completely.  The Constellation Players Championship was a great success, and therefore giving me added incentive to do better here than I did there.
The course wasn't particularly suited to my type of game there.  It got very, very wet, and the fairways were made very, very wide, unfortunately.  But as a golf course and as a standard of play, I was very impressed, and I look forward to competing here for many, many months to come.
THE MODERATOR:  Very good.  You played, you said, nine holes here this morning.
THE MODERATOR:  Do you think this course is a little more suited to your game?  It also seems firmer and faster with the warmer weather we've had.
COLIN MONTGOMERIE:  Yes, it is.  It is firmer and faster.  We had lift, clean, and place in Fox Chapel all four days.  It was a shame, but it had to be done.  This will play the ball as it lies, as you say, and provided we don't get any heavy, heavy thunderstorms through the afternoon‑‑ which I don't think is forecast, to be honest‑‑ I think we're in for a great week.
I think the golf course, the front nine I played, I heard it was a flatter nine.  So I played that one first.  What I'll do, I think I'll play eight times round the front nine, and I'll leave the back nine, I think, because if that's the flat nine, I think we're all in trouble.  They've forgotten that we're all over 50 here, you know.  We tend to suffer sometimes.
So I'll just play eight times round the front nine, and then I'll have a half a chance.  But it's very good.  The greens are super.  The conditioning is‑‑ we almost come to expect the conditioning as good as it is here, USGA events, but I know, as well as anyone, that it takes an awful lot of effort, a lot of money to put on an event as good as this and the course in as good a shape as this.  I thoroughly admire what the USGA do to test us to the degree they are, and we look forward to the challenge over the next four days, five days really.
THE MODERATOR:  Very good.
We're going to open it up to questions here.  Just raise your hand.

Q.  Colin, if I remember, you were a commentator at Merion?

Q.  Do you see similarities between Merion and OCC here?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE:  Yes.  I was working for Sky Sports and did a little bit for Golf Channel as well over there.
I was very impressed with Merion.  People felt it was going to be burnt up on 61 and 62 shots.  The USGA are no mugs, and they understand what's in it.  It's amazing now in the year 2013 the scoring can be controlled to an extent of having level par winning the U.S. Open.
To be honest, the front nine, the way this course is playing, and the difficulty of it, I mean, under par here will be a very good score over the four days.  There's a more physical element comes into the Senior Open than it does in the regular U.S. Open, and four rounds round here will play its part, no question.
Some of the guys, 55 or 60, will be glad that the 72nd hole is upon them, and near 50 I'll be glad alongside them.  So there always is a physical element here that you've got to think about, and the heat and the severity of the course will play its part.
I think similarities, yes, and the way it's been set up and the beautiful manicured manner, yeah.

Q.  Could you speak a little bit‑‑ first, welcome to the Champions Tour, the over 50 circuit, as it were.  Could you speak to the prestige of the title here.  You've obviously just played one event on the over 50 circuit, that being considered a Major Championship as well.
From worldwide perspective and from your looking forward to your over 50 career, how important is this, the U.S. Senior Open?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE:  Very important.  I haven't traveled from Edinburgh, spent a night in London, traveled to Chicago, spent a night over here in the heat to finish second.  It was very interesting to see that Freddy Couples, having won the Masters, and his exhibit in the Hall of Fame recently has a replica of the Senior British Open in a prime spot in his exhibit.
Very interesting to see the emphasis that he puts on a Senior Major win, and I would do something similar.  I've been very close to winning the U.S. Open on a number of occasions, and it would be great to finally come over to America and win a USGA event.  I look forward to trying to achieve that.
These championships are major championships.  There's more golfers in the world‑‑ there's more playing golfers in the world over 50 than there are under 50.  So we're playing for‑‑ don't get me wrong here.  This is a major, major championship, and I treat it as such.  The standard of golf is very high.
I played okay last week, two weeks ago at Pittsburgh, and was 8 under, and I was 11 shots behind the lead.  So okay.  So that proves that the standard is extremely high out here.  I'm under no illusions how difficult it will be to try to win any event out here never mind a U.S. Open.  So I look forward to the challenge of it.
I've got a good draw on Thursday, but a good tee time with Tom Watson and Bernhard Langer.  Three winning Ryder Cup captains playing together, and I look forward to that draw.  If I can stay with Bernhard, especially now age‑wise, if I can stay with Bernhard, I'll be quite happy.  It's quite a standard to maintain to play with Bernhard Langer.

Q.  You talked about three winning Ryder Cup captains.  When you talk about Watson, do you talk about '93 or 2014?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE:  I'm talking about 2014.

Q.  So no prediction for 2014?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE:  He could become a double winning Ryder Cup champion, but I'm talking about '93, yes.

Q.  You played in major championships.  You played in the Ryder Cup.  How do you imagine this to compare in terms of the field and also in terms of the atmosphere and the crowd that is present this weekend?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE:  This is a very well‑supported golf tournament already, even on a Tuesday in the heat, the crowds have come out here to support, which is wonderful.  There's not a lot of professional sports, I believe, in this area.  So it's nice to see the crowds coming out to support professional sports of any kind.
This, as I was saying earlier, is a major championship, one that everyone picks up on Thursday morning with anticipation of trying to win.  It's different for me now that I have so‑called‑‑ a different stage of my life whereby I was hoping to win on the European tour, playing against guys that are younger than my children, and now I'm playing against guys my own age.  So it's more of a level playing field.
And I look forward over the next few years to compete against that than I was where I really felt the playing field was a wee bit uneven because they were better than me.

Q.  On Sunday at the Senior Players, I believe you shot 65.  What did you find that was working, and what do you carry over to this week?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE:  Nothing different in the way I played.  I played actually better Thursday, Friday.  I didn't hole any putts at all.  On Sunday I just holed three more putts than I did on Saturday.  So 68 became 65.  That's all it is.
All of the guys on the practice ground there and everything, but really we all know that 70 percent of this game is played within 100 yards of the hole.  It doesn't matter what standard of golf you are.
So that's where this Championship will be won and lost, and that's where every Championship's won and lost, from 100 yards in.  So if I can putt the way I did on Sunday, I have a chance.  That's all.  I'd love to be in contention on Saturday evening.
I was competing in Europe for the last two or three years, not really contending.  And I'd like to be able to contend on Saturday evening to give myself half a chance.

Q.  You mentioned Tom Watson and the choice of him as a Ryder Cup captain.  Did that surprise you at all when that happened?  How good a choice was it to go back to him, a guy who'd won it before?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE:  Yes, I think the U.S. PGA were very brave in selecting Tom Watson.  I think a very brave and a very wise decision by the U.S. PGA.  The U.S. hasn't had the success that it might have expected in the rider cup over the last 20 years, and they kept on changing captains for the sake of changing captains, somebody new all the time.
They've gone back to the guy, the last guy that won it right from home, 1993, which you know is 21 years ago.  So they've gone back to that.  I think a very wise move.  I think Tom Watson is loved in Scotland, very well thought of all over the world, obviously, but loved in Scotland.  4 of his 5 British Open successes were in Scotland and loved in Scotland.
So I think a very wise and very brave move by the U.S. PGA, and I think that the players that play under Tom Watson, the American players playing under Tom Watson will have full of respect for whatever he has to say.  Yeah, I think it's a very wise move by them.

Q.  You mentioned the levelling of the playing field.  Was there a point in the last five years maybe when you kind of said, just wait until I'm 50.  Obviously, you're trying to win every week.  Was there a point, as they circle the date, can't wait to get out there.  Do you feel like a rookie?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE:  Not with me.  I think with a number of players, I think from 45 to 50 is the sort of stagnation time, treading water, until they become 50, and staying healthy what have you.  I was still playing to a reasonable level, making more cuts than I was missing, and finishing top ten still in Europe and hopefully feeling that I was contending.
So it wasn't quite that, but I was looking forward at that stage to the opportunity of playing Seniors Champions Tour golf.  I was talking to Langer there.  I played with him the first two days at Pittsburgh there two weeks ago, and he said that winning‑‑ you know, it doesn't matter at what level it is, if it's tiddlywinks, we are all‑‑ there's 156 competitors out here, and we're all very competitive.
And as long as that competitive urge stays with us, that ambition, that drive, that hunger that stays with us, as it obviously has with him and it hopefully will with me, we'll still be out here competing because it's a fantastic opportunity to put yourself up for examination and be tested and then having the ability to come out on top.  Fantastic.  Especially against 155 of your peers.
If you had an article to write and there's 156 of you sitting at desks and then somebody judged you and voted you the best article of that 156 against your peers, you'd be bloody happy.  You'd be very happy.  You wouldn't need paid.  So even added bonus, somebody pays us as well.  So imagine the feeling that we have in that out of 155 other competitors, to go out and compete against them and beat them, it's a great feeling and the feeling that the Champions Tour has given us all for many years.  So we're very, very fortunate.

Q.  Colin, what kind of support did you feel from the galleries of Pittsburgh and maybe from the nine holes here today?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE:  Superb support, a great warmth, a great welcome I've had from everybody, players and caddies and players and caddies I haven't seen for many years.  And also with the crowd reaction.  It's been super.  I look forward to playing my part in that as well and signing as many autographs and being part of that.
I think this Tour is more that way than the PGA Tour is.  It's more a relationship‑based tour where we can liaise with the crowds, with the spectators on a more open basis, and I do like that.  So, yes, so far, so good.  It's been a tremendous week and a half that I've had already.

Q.  Vijay doesn't want to play on the Champions Tour yet.  Some guys, when they turn 50, that's all they do.  Some split it back and forth.  What are your plans?  Will you continue to play PGA and European Tour events?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE:  I think the schedule this year is quite strange because I have to join towards the back end of the year, June the 23rd, so I missed most of this year.  I'm joining halfway through.
But I'm playing as many Champions Tour events as I can.  I'm playing another three or four European Tour events that I'm still a member of.  And a couple of European Seniors Tour events.
But the main focus for me is here.  If I play, say, what's 28 tournaments a year, 22 of them will be in the states.  So the majority of the time I will be spending here in the states, and I really look forward to it.  I really do.

Q.  You've had some success in the past, as you talked about earlier, in USGA Championships.  Three runner‑up finishes in the U.S. Open, and now you're back here with another USGA championship, the U.S. Senior Open.  What is it about USGA setups that suits your game?  Tell us about that.
COLIN MONTGOMERIE:  I always loved the U.S. Open setups.  From '92, where I felt I had one in '92 at Pebble Beach, and I actually finished third.  And the other three runner‑up finishes I had, I really enjoyed playing in the U.S. Open, mainly because others didn't.
It was the severest test of all.  The USGA set up the courses in such a manner that it excluded half the field almost immediately and allowed me to feel one‑up on the 1st tee because it suited my game.  I hit the fairways, and I hit the greens, and that's what the U.S. Open was all about, hitting fairways and greens.
And this course is really no different.  Fairways and greens, and it takes the pressure off, and it's amazing over the four days, the guy that's got the less pressure on him will end up winning.  So that's my goal this particular week is fairways and greens.

Q.  You were out on the range next to Roger Chapman earlier, and you guys, being fellow British, did he tell you anything about last year's win and what it was like and what to expect?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE:  No, he didn't actually.  He was working with his coach and his caddie about his alignment, so I didn't want to get involved.  When people are hitting golf balls on a range, you can talk to them and turn around.  But when his coach and his caddie are talking technique and talking about the swing or the play in the swing or whatever it was, alignment, I didn't want to get involved.  I didn't want to speak to him.
I am playing with Roger Chapman in the morning at 7:40 in a practice round.  So I'll talk to him then.

Q.  What do you think he'll say about his win last year?  How do you see that conversation taking place?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE:  I don't really know.  He's obviously thrilled to win back‑to‑back Majors here in the states the way he did, and it was a fantastic achievement of his and something that we'd all like to emulate.  So we just wish him well.  If he can do that again, it's fantastic for Britain.  We're doing okay in sport right now.  We'll have a British winner this week.

Q.  You've spoken, obviously, at length about what this Championship means.  I understand it's one shot at a time, this game.  Have you allowed yourself, whether it's on a plane or coming up the drive here, to envision what it would mean to you to win either a tournament in the United States or a major championship, specifically this one?  Have you fast forwarded at any point to the prize giving and what it might mean to you?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE:  No, I've never done that in my career.  I think I'm actually a great believer in the fact that, as soon as you think about that, you don't have one to make in the first place.  It's like, if you take out an umbrella, it won't rain, but if you don't have it with you, it will.
So I don't ever think about how it would feel to win a Seniors event over here.  I'll tell you that when it comes and if it comes, and I know how difficult it's going to be.
Having played, as I said, reasonably well at Pittsburgh and being 11 shots behind the lead has worried me a bit.  So we'll see how it goes this week.
THE MODERATOR:  If that's it, I would like to thank Colin Montgomerie for coming in.  7:52 off the 10th tee on Thursday with Bernhard Langer and Tom Watson.  Good luck.
COLIN MONTGOMERIE:  Thank you very much.

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