Colin Montgomerie tells Robin Barwick about his motivations for joining the senior ranks, his induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame and why Europe are underdogs for the 2016 Ryder Cup
He was not the first to say it and he won’t be the last, but Colin Montgomerie did claim he would not play seniors golf.
‘Monty’ turned 50 on June 23, 2013, and made his seniors debut four days later. He didn’t win at first, but in 2014 Montgomerie finally bagged the first Major title of his career at the Senior PGA Championship (below). No, it is not a fully-fledged, career-defining Major title, like the ones that eluded and haunted Montgomerie during his prime, but still.
Then he got a taste for it and won the US Senior Open, finished runner-up to Bernhard Langer at the Senior Open Championship and finished 2014 second behind his old Ryder Cup team-mate in the Champions Tour’s Schwab Cup ranking.
The story of 2015 has been similar. Montgomerie successfully defended his Senior PGA title, wound up second in the Senior US Open and then third in the Senior Open at Sunningdale in July, having led deep into the final round. He led the Schwab Cup standings up until the final event, the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, but had to make do with second place as Langer pipped him to the post once again.
All in all, he’s made a pretty good fist of it. “For a man who said he was never going to play seniors golf, Monty is not doing bad,” Sam Torrance tells Golf Monthly. “I told him before he turned 50: ‘You wait and see, Monty. It’s in your blood.’ Judging by how competitive and how good he has been throughout his career, there was no way he was going to stop when 50 came around. You think, ‘Okay, I will play in a couple of seniors events and see what happens’, and then when you find you are competing it’s bloody awesome. It’s in his blood.”
A couple of years ago, as he dusted down his golf bag, Montgomerie admitted something: “I know I said I would never play seniors golf, but I have since learnt that you should never say never.”
“No, I never thought I would play seniors golf,” Montgomerie, now 52, tells Golf Monthly in an exclusive interview, before adding with that distinctive chuckle: “I thought I would be retired by now but I was causing my wife all sorts of headaches so she threw me out to play more golf.”
Closer to the truth (probably) is that Monty’s change of heart was triggered by his induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2013, which conveniently took place just before his 50th birthday. With Hall of Fame induction comes a tour card for the Champions Tour, and the opportunity to play a 24-tournament schedule (including the Senior Open Championship) with total prize money of $49.35 million (in 2015). That is compared to a 2015 European Seniors Tour schedule of ten tournaments (also including the Senior Open) and a total prize fund of approximately $5.6 million.
As a carrot the European prize fund is a little shriveled for a golfer, course designer, broadcaster and celebrity of Montgomerie’s success, but in comparison the American fund is a seven-course banquet. Recent business has even taken Montgomerie to Azerbaijan, where he opened Dreamland Golf Club, the first-ever golf course in capital city Baku. The 170-acre Cynthia Dye-designed premium club features native olive trees, lakes, golden sandy bunkers and first-class conditioning, as well as impressive off-course facilities, including a state-of-the-art academy, performance studios and a two-tiered driving range.
But, as Torrance said, the competitive fires in Montgomerie cannot be extinguished by age, and business pursuits can’t deliver the same satisfaction as playing golf at a professional level, regardless of where that takes place.
“I needed a purpose in life,” admits Montgomerie. “My golf course design business is going well, my charity is going well, but I needed more of a purpose to get me up and get me going. It doesn’t matter what you have done or how much bloody money you’ve got.
“To be inducted into the Hall of Fame was a real bonus and it gave me immediate access to the American tour. The Hall of Fame was the catalyst. I received the call from George O’Grady in December , the induction ceremony was in May  and I turned 50 in June. So I thought, what the hell am I doing at home? Let’s give it a go.
“I have enjoyed seniors golf more than I thought I would. The comradeship between the players is much better than I expected. Everyone is happy for everyone else’s success, although everyone remains very competitive. The standard is extremely high and you have to play your best to win.”