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He's ba-a-ack. Colin Montgomerie, the Goon from Troon, golf's Gael-force windbag, returns from the European tour to give us fits at Doral this week. When last we despised him, Monty was leading Europe past our Ryder Cup team after ripping our boys in the press. Tiger Woods was a Ryder Cup nobody, he suggested, while Brad Faxon "is going through a divorce. Mentally, I don't think he'll be with it." When Cup play proved him correct as well as obnoxious, U.S. players trash-talked back. "He's the biggest jerk in the world," said Tour veteran Fred Funk, "and I'm going to tell him that to his face."
Yet for all his achievements, many fans see the pasty Scot as a firth-class jerk. He's not even first in the hearts of his countrymena place reserved for Sam Torrance, whose lumpen style suits the class-conscious Scots better than that of Montgomerie, a son of privilege whose father is club secretary at Royal Troon.
Montgomerie has blown chances to make friends with America. In addition to acting like a martyr when a shot goes wrong, he is given to fits of pique. During a stirring run at last year's U.S. Open title, he focused on a few fans who cheered when he missed a putt. "Save it for the Ryder Cup," he said. When another fan called out our national motto "You da man!" to Phil Mickelson, Monty growled, "Cut that out!" There have also been lapses in sportsmanship. In his final Ryder Cup match last year, Montgomerie needed to halve his match against Scott Hoch to close out the U.S. He succeeded, leaving Hoch standing over a meaningless 12-footermeaningless to the Cup but not to Monty, who would add a victory to his record if Hoch missed. He was about to make Hoch finish when European team captain Seve Ballesteros intervened to concede the putt.
Now Montgomerie, 34, needs to win in America to seal his status as a great player. "I have improved every year since turning pro; now my expectations are higher than ever," he says. "I want to win in the U.S. and win one of the majors."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. He was going to play our Tour last year, but he chickened out," says a Tour insider. "He was going to play here full time this year, but where has he been?"
Monty is coming, and his Essex-based swing coach, Dennis Pugh, is relieved. "Colin is the hardest person I have worked with. It's very pressurized dealing with someone who's only comfortable with winning," says Pugh, adding that the fiery Scot is "great company away from the course."
He's coming, and there's less not to like. "I have been dieting and working out in the gymlost 10 pounds," says Monty, who though not exactly wiry is now less Mrs. Doubtfire-y. He expects a coolly polite welcome at Doral. That's probably what he'll get from our guys, most of whom find Faldo more irksome anyway.
"Some of the American players were upset by what was printed about the Ryder Cup," Montgomerie says, "but I've apologized." Faxon has agreed to a truce. Even Funk says, "I don't think he's the biggest jerk in the world as much as I used to."
Ready or not, here comes the man who might be the best Scottish golfer since young Tom Morris. "Am I misunderstood? No," says Monty. "People know me. They know I never give up, and that's why I do well. It's also why I look miserable at times. What I am is an honest golfer, and I've no intention of changing."
Issue date: March 9, 1998
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