It was at Pebble Beach that Montgomerie made himself known to most American fans. The final round in '92 was played in conditions more akin to Montgomerie's homeland than to the Monterey Peninsula. The wind howled up to 40 mph. The greens, which had not been watered sufficiently, dried out like three-day-old French bread. Montgomerie completed a round of 70 while the leaders were on the front side. He was safely in at 288, and his finish prompted Nicklaus, who was commentating for ABC, to announce on the air that the young Scot had won the Open, although he would wind up third, behind Tom Kite and Jeff Sluman.
Since then Montgomerie, who has yet to win any major, lost a three-way playoff to Els in the '94 Open and was runner-up to Els again in '97. In eight Opens, Montgomerie has made every cut and finished in the top 25 six times. "I look forward to U.S. Opens like no other tournament," he says. "What excites me is the way the courses are set up. It excites me, and therefore it disappoints some others. The setup takes away half the field. I enjoy playing Opens. Other competitors don't. I get positive feelings from that."
Montgomerie also believes that because he wasn't heckled during his four previous appearances in the U.S. this year, at the World Match Play, Bay Hill, the Players Championship and the Masters, everything will be fine at Pebble Beach. He might be right. But no one will know until the first arrow pierces the bull's-eye on his back. Then, the decision will be his.