By Gene Wang
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 19, 2006
MAMARONECK, N.Y., June 18 -- Major championships have not been kind to Colin Montgomerie, and Sunday at this year's U.S. Open brought more of the same. The Scotsman shared a one-stroke lead through 71 holes before a double bogey on the final hole left him one shot from a playoff.
"This is as difficult as it gets," said Montgomerie, who finished 6 over par and tied for second behind Geoff Ogilvy. "You wonder sometimes why you put yourself through this."
What has changed is his demeanor in the aftermath. No longer the defiant man who incurred jeers from American galleries during his most productive years, Montgomerie became an endearing figure at Winged Foot. Cheers of "Go Monty" replaced invective, and he interacted with spectators as if he were playing back across the Atlantic.
"Fantastic support. Fabulous support from not just the U.S. crowd but from the New York crowd, and I thank them for that support," said Montgomerie, who led the European Order of Merit from 1993 to '99. "It was great, you know, to be a non-American coming over here, and to have that support is great."
The most telling indication was the hearty applause Montgomerie received as he walked off the 18th green after carding a double-bogey 6. Otherwise, it was a hole Montgomerie just as soon would forget, and he playfully tried to avoid discussing that ending.
As he stepped to the podium, he asked the throng of media: "What do you need, guys?"
"Talk about the last hole," one reporter asked.
"Thank you, yeah. The last hole I played was 17 actually, so that was good," he said. "Seventeen was a drive out right and a 5-iron through the trees and 40-foot putt. That was the last hole of golf I played."
At the 18th, tied with Phil Mickelson for the lead at 4 over, Montgomerie drove into the fairway and had 172 yards to the hole. He pulled a 6-iron out of his bag, then thought again before deciding on a 7-iron. His adrenaline was rushing, he said, and he figured he would fly the ball 10 yards farther because of it.
Montgomerie hit what he later called a "poor shot," pushing it into deep rough right of the green. His chip flew 40 feet past the hole, and he three-putted for just the second time in the tournament, both coming on the back nine Sunday.
"This is the first time I've really messed up," he said. "Other chances I've had, other players have done well. . . . This is the first time I've really messed up, which is okay. You're entitled to a couple of mess-ups along the way."
Montgomerie's most recent opportunity to win a major came at the 1997 Open at Congressional. There, he missed a five-foot putt for par on No. 17 and lost to Ernie Els in the U.S. Open. He lost to Els in a playoff at the 1994 Open at Oakmont and, a year later, lost to Steve Elkington in a playoff at the PGA Championship at Riviera.
The U.S. Open returns to Oakmont next year, as will Montgomerie. "At my age I've got to think positively. I'm 43 next week, and it's nice I can come back after nine years after contending for this tournament to come back and do well again," he said. "I look forward to coming back [to the United States] again next year and trying another U.S. Open disaster."