Monty enters rehab with a ready excuse

Gleneagles the perfect therapy as the perennial bridesmaid finds a culprit for his latest heartbreak
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The Independent Online

As getting straight back on to horses goes, the old Scottish PGA may be a Shetland pony, but still Colin Montgomerie has impressed everyone with his remounting at Gleneagles. It has certainly shown up those "Is this the end of Monty?" headlines after last Sunday's US Open capitulation for exactly what they were - knee-jerk.

That truth must have pleased Montgomerie somewhat as he sipped his tea and buttered his scone at an informal gathering at Turnberry on Friday afternoon. Ostensibly he was there with his father to celebrate his 43rd birthday, although there must also have been something cathartic about the trip to his own golf academy.

As if his morning's round of five under was not comfort enough, then the presentation in his honour at the Ayrshire resort must have been. It is easy to imagine Jim Montgomerie looking proudly at the display of his son's Ryder Cup bags (seven and counting) and saying: "See, boy, it's not all that bad, is it?" But to Montgomerie Jnr it is.

And after five days of denying his real emotions - "I've taken away so many positives, blah, blah, blah" - Montgomerie eventually admitted so on Thursday, saying his first round of the Johnnie Walker Championship was plagued with thoughts of the seven-iron which unarguably cost him his first major.

It was honest stuff, but typical Monty. For, away from the press room, he revealed what he truly believed had caused him to change up from a six-iron and so effect the horrible balloon into the cabbage from the middle of the fairway. And guess what? It wasn't all Colin Montgomerie's fault. "I was nervous and all that, but it didn't help that Vijay [Singh, his playing partner] had driven into the tents and was about five minutes getting a ruling. I honestly believe that if I was able to walk up to that shot and hit it immediately I would probably have won."

Still, at least he has stayed consistent in claiming that "the victory would not have changed my life". Perhaps. But it would undoubtedly have changed his view on life, just as it would have changed that which matters as much as anything to him - other people's view of his life.

Despite his eight Order of Merits, his Ryder Cup mastery and now an Indian summer simply stunning in its brightness and length, Montgomerie appreciates all too painfully that he still lacks authenticity in some quarters. In his recent autobiography, For Love or Money, Peter McEvoy, the former Walker Cup captain and godfather of the amateur game, provides the perfect indication of what the experts see as the shortcoming.

"When I think of Monty I think of Tim Henman," said McEvoy, alluding to the fact that he has yet to win a tournament in which either Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson has competed. "Monty is better than many who have won majors, but there are those who win majors because they are good enough and those who win because they are nearly good enough and get a bit of luck. Monty falls in the latter category. But he hasn't had the luck yet."

The cruel light of Winged Foot suggests he never will, as does the knowledge that Hoylake and Medinah, the next two major venues, just will not suit him.

Alas, it does therefore follow that he might end his career majorless, and the wise words of Bruce Crampton - the Australian Montgomerie usurped as "the best player never to have won a major" with last week's fifth runner-up placing - will not help.

On chucking his clubs away just 18 months after finishing second to Jack Nicklaus in a major for the fourth time in four seasons, Crampton barked: "Golf is a compromise between what your ego wants you to do, what experience tells you to do, and what your nerves will let you do." A man who lives on his nerves, Montgomerie has never been much cop at compromise.

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