When the curtain was raised on the 145th Open Championship yesterday, there was a proper setting — emphasis on proper.
Not proper in regards to shape of the stage, because sadly, we are not going to see the desired firm and fast.
Not proper in wind, either, because you couldn’t hear the flags flapping.
Ah, but when you bring an Open to Royal Troon, it is virtually mandatory your field has to have the lumbering presence of one Colin Montgomerie. And anyone who has watched professional golf since the days of balata knows no one lumbers like Colin Montgomerie.
Ah, Monty. The Brave Monty. The exasperated Monty. And above all, The Quotable Monty.
“Look, I tell you what, I tell you what, a lot better players than me in the world of golf would have taken 71 after being 2-over at the first (hole),” said Montgomerie, who has always had a curious habit of repeating himself.
“Yes, yes,” is a staple and he had another one yesterday after his opening-round 71 at Royal Troon. “A great honour, a great honour.”
Montgomerie was awash in glory, specifically responding to a question about having the opening tee shot in the Open Championship at Royal Troon, the club to which he belongs and has played since he was 16 years old. When you consider he’s now 53, that covers a wide expanse, but it also felt like forever since he had graced an Open Championship theatre. Since 2010, to be exact, but thanks to some magic at Gailes Links in Final Qualifying, Montgomerie earned a 22nd trip to the Open Championship and perhaps one last chance to finally win a major.
Not that he’s got that lofty of a dream, mind you, because the Scotsman conceded that, even after rushing out in 3 under to have a piece of the early lead, “I’ve got to be realistic and all I am hoping for is to walk on the 18th on Sunday.”
So, just making the cut will put a smile on Montgomerie’s face. As opposed to his trademark scowl that was in prime view every step and every swing of his double-bogey at Seal, the benign opening hole.
“You saw it on television, it was horrendous,” Montgomerie said a second shot that plugged up against the face of bunker. Two shots were required to get himself out, the second being “probably one of the best shots of my life” and before he knew it, he was 2 over.
What a way to ruin such a festive atmosphere, eh?
Montgomerie, by now, had lost the scowl. Five birdies followed on the front and a long par-save at the 18th had been highlights and more than offset the double-bogey. So, no, the way the day had begun was still a sense of pride.
No need to frown, Monty!
After a double-bogey start, Colin Montgomerie has carded four birdies to get to (-2). pic.twitter.com/JdY4JtqQip— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) July 14, 2016
Though it was 6.35am on a cool Scottish morning, Montgomerie walked onto the first tee and saw grandstands jam-packed with fans, nearly all of them there to see him. “An honour for all three of us, Marc Leishman and Luke Donald, as well,” but Montgomerie was being polite. Truth is, he was the star, he was the one all had come to see, he was the national hero who may never have won a major but who had never failed to entertain.
“It was a great atmosphere on the first tee, no doubt.” And never did it evaporate, either, because with no one ahead of him, Montgomerie was greeted by large gatherings throughout his four-hour walk. Not that it rivalled the adulation he has felt as a Ryder Cup hero or all those walks into the winner’s circles at European Tour tournaments, but certainly Montgomerie felt the love.
That was heartfelt.
The fact he could also smell the bacon was the problem, especially given he played so early he no breakfast. “There’s one place left of seven (a bacon bap stand) and that’s annoying,” Montgomerie said. “You want to tell them, ‘Stop.’ It’s disappointing. That smell is fantastic.”
Likely, what fans found fantastic were the birdies by Montgomerie at the third and then the par 5s, four and six, and when he birdied the Postage Stamp eighth and also the ninth, the Scots could barely contain their joy.
The fact the demanding back nine roughed Montgomerie up to the tune of 38 strokes dulled the shine, but in the big picture, it was a wonderful day. Mother Nature offered pulsating sunshine, Montgomerie and even a brighter smile.
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