Leonard Shapiro, Sports Columnist
Teeing Off

Montgomerie Is Due a Victory at the Open

By Leonard Shapiro
Special to washingtonpost.com
Wednesday, July 18, 2007; 1:46 PM

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland--It's always easy to pick the sentimental favorite in the British Open. Since Jean Van de Velde is not in the field, picking Colin Montgomerie is a no-brainer and he also has a chance to win.

Montgomerie, a dominating European Ryder Cup player for years, has never won a major championship. He came close several times, most recently at the 2005 Open at St. Andrews when he was the runner-up and again at the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot. With a 7-iron in his hand on the 18th fairway Sunday needing a par to win, he somehow made a crippling six that left him tied for second, a shot out of a playoff.

But here in his home country of Scotland, Monty can do no wrong. Hundreds came out to watch him play Tuesday in an early evening practice round, and thousands will be in his galleries all week, hoping to will him to a victory and the coveted Claret Jug that goes with it.

Montgomerie has played Carnoustie countless times, going all the way back to his days in junior golf. He still has a piece of the course record, a 64 when it was a par 72, and he comes into the tournament ten days after winning the European Open at the same K Club course where he helped lead Europe to victory over the United States in the 2006 Ryder Cup.

"A win is a win," Montgomerie said on Wednesday. "It doesn't matter if it's in the car park. Fabulous, really, because after 19 months (between victories), one wasn't sure whether it was going to happen again. You do have doubt and you think well, okay, was the Hong Kong Open in 2005 the last one? And thank goodness it wasn't.

"It just gives you a lot of confidence. It gives you confidence over the ball, over any shot, that you've done it ten days ago. It just proves that I'm capable of still winning and against a good European Tour field, which of course they all are now."

Montgomerie, now 43, is clearly on the downhill slide of his career but is as fit and healthy as he's ever been and talks confidently of avoiding senior golf for as long as possible.

"As long as you keep your circle of flexibility with your back, I suppose that's the thing that stops most of us," he said. "As long as I'm flexible within that regard, I can keep going. Many people say that coming up 44 is senior's golf. Well that doesn't interest me at this stage at all.

"If I'm 51, 52 and capable of playing, I'll play out here. It doesn't mean you have to play the senior tour when you're 50."

Montgomerie couldn't have been more witty, charming or thoughtful at the media center the day before the Open started. That's the Good Monty. The Evil Twin Monty is usually on display after he shoots a 75 or botches a chance for victory on Sunday, causing him to stomp away from any poor soul with a notebook pad or video camera.

Montgomerie has been known to flinch at the slightest of sounds from behind the ropes, usually accompanied by a glare at the offending party. And pity the trigger-happy photographer who inadvertently clicks during his backswing.

Hell hath no greater fury than a distracted Monty.

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