Colin Montgomerie and the importance of majors
Colin Montgomerie did something on the weekend that many people thought was utterly impossible: he won a major championship. Granted, it was a senior major, but the very thought of Monty winning one after all these years, and after so many chances on the main tours, is still noteworthy. Not only did he win, but he won it while playing in the United States, something else that he had never accomplished despite 41 worldwide victories in his impressive career.
When you think about it, it has been an impressive career, hasn’t it? Despite the changes to the Hall of Fame voting process that were rumoured to be largely due to his and Fred Couples’ election, he wouldn’t have gotten into the Hall of Fame if he was a poor player and I don’t think that anyone in their right mind would ever make that argument. I mean, look at his list of accomplishments:
- Eight Order of Merit titles as the European Tour’s top money earner, including seven in a row from 1993-1999.
- 41 victories worldwide, including 31 on the European Tour, which places him fourth all-time.
- Played on five winning Ryder Cup teams, compiling a perfect record in singles play.
- Won the 2010 Ryder Cup as a non-playing captain at Celtic Manor.
- 398 weeks in the top-10 in the Official World Golf Rankings, getting to number two in the world behind only Greg Norman for 24 weeks in 1996.
The funny thing is, even with knowing that list of accomplishments above, if you go and ask anyone about Colin Montgomerie, they’ll probably tell you that he’s a choker, especially if that person happens to live in North America. This is based entirely on the fact that he never won a major championship in the 71 times that he teed it up at Augusta, in the U.S. Open, at the Open Championship or at the PGA Championship.
He wasn’t without his chances though. In those 71 events, he placed inside the top-10 ten times, including five runner-up finishes from 1994 to 2006, with two playoff losses to Ernie Els at the 1994 U.S. Open and Steve Elkington at the 1995 PGA. His best chance though may have come at the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot. You may remember it as one of the many U.S. Open’s that Phil Mickelson let get away, and for this post-tournament comments:
Montgomerie though had a tremendous opportunity to win that tournament, and it’s not a stretch to say that he was in the driver’s seat in the 18th fairway with Mickelson imploding behind him. After a lengthy wait in the fairway, Montgomerie made a last minute club switch from a 6-iron to a 7-iron, and well, watch for yourself:
That one shot could have changed Montgomerie’s career, but instead, it contributed to giving a very good but lesser player in Geoff Ogilvy a major championship victory. If Montgomerie hits that shot onto the green and two putts for his par, he not only wins the U.S. Open, but he changes the way people look at him going forward. Instead of being a choker and an underachiever, he’s become a winner and a guy who can get it done when it matters most.
Does that seem wrong to anyone else? How does one shot in a slightly more important tournament than the others mean so much? Montgomerie’s far from the only one that has been downgraded as a player because they haven’t won a major. Sergio Garcia, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Steve Stricker and many others have had fantastic careers playing golf at the highest level possible. The fact that they don’t have a major win and guys like Shaun Micheel, Rich Beem and Todd Hamilton do have one speaks more to the arbitrary nature of the game than anything. All of these guys, including Micheel, Beem and Hamilton are good players and can win whenever they tee it up, but the consistency and longevity of guys like Montgomerie shouldn’t just be wiped aside because he went 0-71 over a twenty year period that included some of the game’s stiffest competition.
I get it. Colin Montgomerie never won a major championship, and he’d be the first to tell you that he should have won at least one and probably multiple majors when he was in the prime of his career. As fans and people who cover the game, we get amped up for the majors more than any of the other events on the various tour schedules, and it makes sense, but we also shouldn’t lose sight of everything else for the sake of four tournaments a year.
It may not change his legacy in the eyes of golf fans, but congrats to Colin Montgomerie for winning the Senior PGA. He’s more than earned it.