By Barry Pump, Special to PGA.com
KOHLER, Wisc. (PGA.com) -- Colin Montgomerie wants no one to make any assumptions about Whistling Straits -- it's a links-style course. But the Scot is pleased with the difficulty of the 7,514-yard course, and that may help catapult him onto the 2004 European Ryder Cup team.
"It's a very interesting golf course, very different, and lots of earth and sand have been moved, and credit to them all," said Montgomerie. "I think it's a wonderful, wonderful test of golf. It will be difficult, but that's what it's about, I suppose, and we all look forward to watching how it all pans out over the next four days."
Montgomerie said that the course will bring out his strengths on the tees and on the fairways -- if any can be hit -- with his long irons. Because the Pete Dye-designed course is the longest course in major championship history, there should be plenty of opportunities for the seasoned veteran.
Montgomerie is ranked 18th in driving accuracy on the European Tour and has a 285-yard average drive. He is also 27th on the tour in strokes per round, with a 71.09 average. And those attributes have made Monty feel confident.
"I'm driving the ball much better than I have over the last two or three years, and that's why I haven't performed the way I did in the mid-to-late '90s. I don't hit as many fairways as I used to do, and I'm getting it back again, which is great," he said.
One reason Montgomerie has to look forward to the 86th PGA Championship is that a win -- or even a high finish -- could move him up the European Ryder Cup point standings and land him a spot on the team for the sixth consecutive occasion.
"I would be very proud of myself, actually," he said. "I'm quite proud of myself right now. But I would be more proud of myself if I could possibly get three good finishes in the next three tournaments and qualify for the team because it has been quite difficult.
"I hope [his standings] will improve and prove to Bernhard [Langer, the European Ryder Cup Captain] that I'm capable, but at the same time, that's up to him, that's not up to me."
Montgomerie thinks that Whistling Straits could set up to be his best shot at winning enough points to qualify for the Ryder Cup team outright, rather than being one of two of Langer's picks.
"I feel more comfortable on a course like this than I do on some others, so I'm looking forward to this championship very much," he said.
While he may be looking forward to another shot at a links-style course, Montgomerie is still quick to point out the differences between a links style and a links course.
"This is a links-style golf course. I never said it was a links course. There's a huge difference," he said. "But at the same time, it's a links-style golf course and a golf course that has been very, very well designed and is a definite tournament/championship venue, one that will come up as the viewers all around the world will notice this course as one of the best new links-style courses around."
While the difference may be "huge" -- the word "links" originally comes from land that has been reclaimed from the sea, while Whistling Straits evolved from a toxic waste dump, a drug-deal hot-spot and a military artillary testing site -- Monty says that it doesn't affect the way the course is played.
"It's a very good job of what's been done, an excellent job of what's been done, and when we find the pins in the corners of the greens, you will see the run-offs come into play," Montgomerie said. "I think that run-offs have been, instead of natural run-offs off greens, these have been manmade run-offs."
Montgomerie said that a player cannot attack the pins at Whistling Straits because of the run-offs, but one cannot bump-and-run close to the greens either.
"One has to use patience and one has to use course management skills to a very high degree here to get around," he said. "It will be very interesting to see how players cope."
One of the biggest challenges is the 500-yard par-4 18th hole, which sports an 18,000-square-foot green. A back-right pin placement on Sunday just might cause a few divots to appear on the front of the green, according to Montgomerie.
"It's unique, that's for sure," he said. "They have to be quite careful, I suppose, where the pin positions are located. I think they will play it safe down that middle channel of the green, where the pins should be located because it's a tough enough hole without having to hide the pin behind any particular hazard."
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