When a sweaty, flush-faced Colin Montgomerie shot 78 in the U.S. Open playoff at Oakmont in Pittsburgh two summers ago, David Leadbetter candidly observed to the press that it might be a good idea if Montgomerie lost some weight. It took 21 months and six more major championships for Monty to figure out that the comments were meant as professional advice and not as a personal attack.
Montgomerie spent four months this off-season counting his calories and increasing his workouts and showed up for last week's Dubai Desert Classic 30 pounds lighter and four inches slimmer in the waist. The results were immediate. In his first tournament since beginning the new regimen, Montgomerie closed with a 68 to win by one stroke over Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain but failed to acknowledge that Leadbetter's suggestion to join Weight Watchers had anything to do with his performance.
"I know what Leadbetter said, but I've done this for my self-esteem and not to improve my golf," Montgomerie said. "After all, I played well when I was overweight. The way I played the last nine holes of the Volvo Masters and the PGA, as well as the Ryder Cup versus Ben Crenshaw, proves that maybe I did sweat more in the heat, but it didn't affect my game."
Although the 32-year-old Montgomerie has won three straight European tour money titles, he has yet to win in the U.S. or break through in a major championship. Last fall he aggravated an old wrist injury and was barely able to finish the season. Leadbetter thinks those injuries will be avoided now that Monty is more supple in the waist—a better body turn should reduce the shock to his hands and arms when he hits the ball. "I'm not saying you have to be a fitness fanatic, but I think you at least have to take care of yourself to a point where it allows you to do what you need to do," Lead-better says. "Who cares when you're 25 or 30? But when you start getting older, it makes a difference for sure."
Could it make a difference at Augusta, where the hills are sure to look less steep to Montgomerie now that he has shed more than two stone? If so, they'll need to remeasure him for a green jacket.
You would think that the best players in the world would be the least likely to run afoul of the Rules of Golf. But last week Nick Faldo, Tom Purtzer, Jeff Sluman and Tom Watson all made mental errors that cost them strokes, money and possibly even a chance to win the Bay Hill Invitational.
Purtzer's error was the most damaging, because the two-stroke penalty he incurred in the second round for hitting Keith Clearwater's ball—they were using the same make, model and number—turned out to be exactly the number of shots between him and winner Paul Goydos.
Sluman's was the most noble. After hitting his tee shot into the water at the par-3 17th on Friday, Sluman went to the drop area and holed out from 60 yards for a par. He finished the day only two strokes off the lead. That night he realized that the drop area might have been nearer to the hole than the point where his ball crossed into the hazard, so the next morning he took a rules official to the spot. They concluded that, yes, Sluman might have erred. But instead of waiting for the Tour to complete a standard investigation, Sluman, who has not won since the 1988 PGA, immediately disqualified himself. "It was the only thing I could do," he said. "Maybe if this was the last tournament of the year, and I had to win a certain amount to keep my card, it would be disastrous, but it's not. What if I won? It would be like a curse."
Faldo's was the most bedeviled. His hex is Jim McGovern. The last time the two were paired, in the 1994 British Open, Faldo mistakenly hit McGovern's Titleist instead of his own Bridgestone. Last Thursday, McGovern asked Faldo to move his ball marker on the 4th green. Faldo then forgot to return his mark before putting out. That was a two-shot penalty. "The guy must think I'm an airhead," Faldo said.