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An Interview With: Colin Montgomerie

JULIUS MASON: Good morning, everyone, Colin Montgomerie joining us at the 86th PGA Championship. Welcome to Whistling Straits. Some opening thoughts got golf course and we'll go to Q&A.

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Yes, it's a very interesting golf course, very different, and lots of earth and sand has been moved, and credit to them all. 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.

Q. Historically speaking, you're a great driver of the ball, known as a great long iron player. Those traits will be brought out this week.

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Yes.

Q. With those being your strengths and a lot of guys maybe uncomfortable, how do you feel?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Yes, I feel confident. I've had a decent set of finishes the last few tournaments I've. 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. I feel more comfortable on a course like this than I do on some others, so I'm looking forward to this, this championship, very much.

Q. Do you feel a course like this will separate a lot of the players that seemingly rely on technology to be competitive?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Yes, good, possibly. Possibly it takes technology out a little bit more. There's more, I suppose, naturally, with you talking about the landfall and the wind and what-have-you, I think that technology tends to go out the window a little bit in the British Open type of deal as it does here. This is very much a links-style golf course, and nature tends to play more of a role than technology does.

So, I look forward to that, in a way, because it is more like playing a links course than it is your average, standard, American target golf that we tend to play over here. And it's a joy to see that three out of the four majors this year have been played on links-style courses. Whether that's coincidence or something that we look towards the future, I'm not sure, but it's nice to see.

Q. How important is it for you to try to be a part of this Ryder Cup Team, and have you talked to Bernhard about the possibility of being one of his selections?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: I haven't spoken to Bernhard at all, actually. But I think you know me well enough to understand what the Ryder Cup means to me, and I would love to be a part of that competition.

But it's up to Bernhard to see what he thinks. My goal over the next three weeks is to actually qualify for the team, something that I've been very proud of in doing the last six occasions, and I hope to make that seven to avoid any -- to put him in an easier position, and I would like to be able to do that. That's my goal over the next three weeks is to make my way onto that team without having to get a captain's pick or a wild card, whatever you call it over here.

Q. The European Ryder Cup Team, you and Nick Faldo and Jose Maria and Bernhard have been really the heart and soul of it over the last ten or more years. How strange will it be if it is a team without that type of experience on it, and how important is it for those elements to be involved?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Well, I mean, that's for you, really, to say. I can't really speak on that. That's why you get paid for your opinions in magazines and newspapers. That's your opinion, and that's why you get paid for that.

It's up to Bernhard to see whether he wants -- he's looking for experience or he's looking for players that are particularly on form at the time or whatever the case may be. I'm just in a position where I know I can qualify in the next three weeks if I perform well. I've performed well the last three tournaments I've played in and I look forward to performing the next three.

Q. Could you fast forward to Sunday afternoon and the last four holes of this tournament? Are those four holes where you can win this or not lose it? In other words --

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Sure. Depends if you're seven ahead playing the last four, you can definitely lose it (laughter).

If you're one ahead, you know, different ballgame, or one behind or whatever the case may be. One behind and you play these four holes in level par, you have every chance. It's a bit like most major championships, like Troon, the last four holes there, as well. If you're playing them at level par for the week, you've come out okay. Similar sort of thing here. It's amazing how par golf on Sunday afternoon tends to do quite well normally.

Q. You've played Whistling Straits now. How would you compare this course to the links courses that you grew up on and played in Scotland?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: This is a links-style golf course. I never said it was a links course. There's a huge difference.

This is not like one of the courses I played when I was young, 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.

Q. Would you be happy to take your current form into the Ryder Cup and how does your form now compare to two years ago? Are you playing better at the current moment than you were going into the Ryder Cup two years ago?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Yeah, form, I'm afraid in the Ryder Cup, you tend to practice on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday of the Ryder Cup and then Friday is a whole new day, a whole new game, a whole new championship, a whole new tournament. You can be practicing as well as you want to. In fact, I wasn't practicing well at all the last time around. Wasn't at all. Tuesday Wednesday, Thursday was a non?event, really, practice. Something tends to trigger me on Friday morning, I don't know what it seems to be, but Bernhard and I had a great partnership there for the first three rounds we played together.

I'll say if I do play in this year's Ryder Cup, I will miss him on the golf course as a partner, definitely. I will miss him tremendously. He was the ultimate partner that anyone can have. I'm sure the Americans would say the same, if they had to pick a partner in foursomes, they would have picked him, as well. I was just lucky I had the opportunity to do it.

Q. Could you just elaborate on the difference between a links-style golf course and an actual links golf course?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Links, the term links comes from land reclaimed by the sea or from the sea. This isn't. Right? This is a runway (laughter).

So therefore, to build a links golf course, we have to go for a links-style of golf course, which I much must admit has been a very, very good effort that has been done here, tremendous effort, and one of the best links-style courses in the world already, and it's only a couple of years old, six years old, which is very, very new.

So links-style, meaning a modern links course, if you like, as opposed to a traditional one, where it's using the contours of the land. If we use the contours of the natural land here, it would be quite flat. You haven't seen many planes land on hills like this.

So we would have to say it's a links-style golf course.

Q. I just want to ask how that affects how the round is played.

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: It doesn't really affect the way it's played. I think that run-offs have been, instead of natural run-offs off greens, these have been man-made run-offs. But at the same time, 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. I think to attack some pin positions will be a mistake out here, so one has to use patience and one has to use course management skills to a very high degree here to get around. It will be very interesting to see how players cope.

Q. I wanted to ask, with this golf course, the way Augusta has been lengthened over the years and the way the U.S. Open sets up its courses, does that further distance the regular golfer from the game that professionals play in that this golf course would be too difficult for an 18?handicap golfer? That's that widening gap between the game that you play and the game that the regular players play.

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: I don't think the gap is widening in any way between us and the 18-handicap golfer. I think there's always been a gap between an 18?handicap golfer and us. It's our job; it's not theirs.

An 18-handicap golfer would find it difficult to play on this course, whereas an 18-handicap golfer could get around Augusta. Whether he's long or not, he could still get to the greens. This is more of a problem for him, as most links-style courses are. There are carries off the tees that you might not get at Augusta. At Augusta you can hit it on the fairway down there. The fairways here, you might not.

We are not trying to distance ourselves. There are some white tees I see here and even some red ones, so ladies can play here. The setup of tees is -- that's what it's for. That's why we have handicaps, you know.

Q. In the links-style again, a lot of the players yesterday said that this really looks like a links course.

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Oh, it does. Oh, very much so.

Q. But that it's still a game that's being played through the air and you have to take it into the greens differently, the grasses are different in the front of the greens. Do you think it's more of a links costume?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: That's what I'm talking about links-style. You still have to carry the ball. There are still certain forced carries that might be on natural links courses, certain forced carries that you have to get around. This is a very, very good golf course, very strong golf course, indeed, very strong. I'm sure that everyone connected with this design must be very proud.

Q. Coming through what you have this year, how great an achievement would it be if you do play yourself into the Ryder Cup Team?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Yeah, good question. I would be very proud of myself, actually. 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. I'd be very, very proud of myself to do that. Because it has been quite difficult, and to do that would have proved to myself, even if I don't, you know -- where am I here, 18th or something? That's actually quite good, and I'm quite happy with that at this stage. I hope that will improve and prove to Bernhard that I'm capable, but at the same time, that's up to him, that's not up to me.

But I would love to be able to qualify and be part of the team. That's not just in my own hands, but I would like to try to get into that position.

Q. Wanting to qualify as much as you do, were you pleased at how difficult this course is when you first saw it?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Yes, yes, good question. I'm not taking away from any of the other European players here, as well, because everyone in those Top?10 positions right now are very, very good golfers and capable of playing around here as well as I am, but I was glad to see the difficulty of this course, and also looking forward to Firestone next week and then we all head off to Munich. So, I have two or three great challenges ahead of me, and as I say, I'm taking a better game of golf into them and feel stronger within myself, so let's hope I can come up and see if I can qualify.

But if not, you know, if not, we don't -- there's more to life, you know, at the end of the day.

As I say, that's up to Bernhard at the end of the day. I haven't spoken to him, and I believe there's a few of us getting together next week, at next week's tournament, and I'll have a chat with him then.

Q. Some of the U.S. crowds have been less than generous in their support of you when you've played here. If you played in the Ryder Cup here on U.S. soil, what would you expect from some of the crowds at Oakland Hills as far as a little gamesmanship, rooting against you, things of that nature, and how would you deal with it?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Well, you obviously weren't at Brookline. We all hope that those scenes are scenes of the past. Let's hope and pray that the way it was played in 2002, that will be the way it will be played in Detroit, as a game. Let's hope that happens whether I'm playing in the tournament or not; I would pray that that would be the case.

Q. I hate to ask you this question for probably the 100th time, but what is it about your makeup that's made you such a lion in that Ryder Cup format over the years, arguably the best record anybody has ever pieced together? Is there a particular attribute or patriotism that makes you slay the giants, so to speak, no matter who they throw at you?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: That's interesting. I think that there is a patriotism, I'm sure there is. But it's the hating losing, really, I suppose. I've always enjoyed a match?play situation more than I ever have stroke?play. I like to play a one?on?one or a two-on-two if you like. I have been fortunate with my partners in the past that have helped me when I have not played well, and hopefully I've helped them, as well, along the way.

My singles record I'm particularly proud of, in not having lost, and I don't like losing very much. Now, whether you say that's patriotism or whatever it is or whether it's an upbringing or whatever it is, I just have an inbuilt desire not to lose. Whether I was playing against the U.S. or playing against anyone, I don't particularly like to lose, and that's why I've probably won a little bit more than possibly others. But at the same time, we all don't like to lose, but me in particular.

Q. Seemingly on paper, the Americans are always the favorites. What is it about the Europeans and their team chemistry that you can tell us about that that makes you rise up and slay the giants as someone just said?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: We always tend to do well in the alternate shots, as you say, and also the four?ball matches. There's been a lot written about why we tend to do well there, and when we lead going into Sunday to hold on. That's why it was so great back in '95, went into Sunday down and won in America. And last year when it was 8-all going into the last day and we won there, as well. We are pulling away from the fact that we always lose the singles.

18 holes match-play, you know as well as do I that anything can happen in that situation. You get a couple early on, and the favorite player presses to get those holes back again and mistakes can happen. But from 2-down, he goes 3-down and then it's even more difficult to get back.

So 18 holes is a very, very quick game of golf, very quick, and anything can happen, and the Ryder Cup has proved that anything does. I wouldn't say on this particular occasion that we are going in as much underdogs as we have in certain years that I've played. I think the teams are very evenly matched. It should do, as normally, come down to -- that's why it's such a great event, and it should come down to the fact of somebody holing a putt on Sunday afternoon in that crucial area, and that's why it's one of the best?viewed sporting occasions that we have. It's up there with Olympic Games and the World Cup Soccer, and that's why it's proved so great a viewed competition, if you like, and we are all very proud that it's golf that's in that third position of audience viewing, which is great.

Q. A lot is being made out of the Donald Ross greens at Oakland Hills. Can you talk about where your putting game is right now and maybe some of the strengths of your game that might suit Oakland Hills?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Well, I'd like to actually -- I don't want to not answer your question in some diplomatic way, but I'd like to talk about Oakland Hills when I get there, when and if. For me to talk about Oakland Hills' greens now is a little bit premature to be honest. I don't want to -- in any way, but I did play there in '96 in the Open there. I remember them. But at the same time it would be wrong for me to talk about Oakland Hills' greens here as finishing 18th on the Ryder Cup list. You can ask me that question when I get there, when and if I get there, okay (smiling).

Q. Can you just talk about your putting right now?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Sure, yes, definitely. I can talk about my putting game, which is a little bit better than it has been. I'm standing a little taller to the ball and releasing the putter head a little bit more. Because I'm hitting more fairways and hitting more greens than I have been over the last couple of years, I'm giving myself more chances, and it's amazing how many go in. It's amazing how relaxed you are when you're putting for birdies than you are for pars. My putting's fine. I had more birdies than anyone else in the Scandinavian Masters, the last tournament we played in, and you cannot make birdies if you're not holing putts.

Yeah, my putting game's fine. We'll just see what happens come tomorrow afternoon when I start.

Q. As far as 18, how do you think that's going to rank as far as finishing holes in major championships?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: The 18th hole here? Well, yes, it's unique, that's for sure. They have to be quite careful, I suppose, the PGA, where the pin positions are located. Or else you'll find a lot of divots on the green.

I think they will play it safe down that middle channel of the green where the pins should be located, to be honest, because it's a tough enough hole without having to hide the pin behind any particular hazard, but at the same time, it is a unique hole and they have to be careful not just with the pin locations, but also with the tee location, as well. There is a tee about 50 yards forward, and hopefully that tee can be and should be used if the wind is into us.

But we'll see come tomorrow where the pin is. But I think they have to be quite careful where the pin is located on that particular hole.

Q. You've usually managed to sew up your Ryder Cup place very quickly in the past.

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Yes.

Q. Are you actually enjoying the fact that you're under pressure now, and is your experience going to help you come through over these last few weeks?

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Well, I mean, all I can say to that is I hope so, yes. Yeah, I hope it does.

If it doesn't, I won't be too disappointed, and there's still an opportunity to play in the Ryder Cup.

But if it does, yes, I'll have proven to myself that, yes, I can still do this, and I know I can. I know I can do this. It's just a matter of going out and proving it again and again. But I know I can, it's just a matter of seeing what's what.

But I'll give myself three opportunities, and I take on that challenge, as I have in many walks of my life. This is just another part of it.

JULIUS MASON: Colin Montgomerie, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you very much.

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