Colin Montgomerie: Robert MacIntyre would be in Ryder Cup team tomorrow if it was in Europe

IN this Royal & Ancient game, Colin Montgomerie is certainly golfing royalty. Just don’t call him ancient. “I don’t like this wording Senior Tour or Senior Open as you expect Old Tom Morris to come out with a bloody walking stick,” chuckled HRH Monty with a beaming smile ahead of this week’s, ahem, Senior Open at sun-soaked Sunningdale.

In his own gate end – Montgomerie lives in the Berkshire village – the celebrated Scot forms part of a grand gallery of golden oldies contesting this latest over-50s major.

But more about that later. In a Ryder Cup year, Monty is always keen on a blether about the transatlantic tussle, particularly when there is a chance for one of his countrymen to be a part of it. 

On the back of his tie for eighth in The Open last Sunday, Robert MacIntyre continues to make a case for a captain’s pick from Padraig Harrington as September’s showdown at Whistling Straits inches nearer.

Montgomerie, a talismanic figure for Europe as a player and the winning skipper in 2010, has been mightily impressed by the Oban left-hander’s progress and is confident the fearless young Scot would thrive amid the cut-and-thrust of the Ryder Cup tumult.

“As a youngster, in just his seventh major, to attack, attack, attack on the Sunday was very impressive, I loved that,” said Montgomerie of MacIntyre’s feisty, final day assault which came unstuck when he flew out of bounds on the 14th as his offensive was gathering pace. 

“He was going for an eagle there. Ok, he pulled it but he was trying to win. He’s not satisfied, as a number of them are, with fifth, sixth place. And that’s what will stand him in good stead. That never-say-die attitude would be brilliant in a Ryder Cup.

“Padraig is looking for winners, for people who will go for it, he’s looking for the Robert MacIntyres of this world.

“If the Ryder Cup was being played in Europe, you’d have him in the team tomorrow. Being in America has a different dynamic and you usually go with experience. I don’t think I would have picked a rookie if I was captain for an away match. It’s too much of a risk. But the way Robert plays the game is a Ryder Cup-type game. That’s what you want, someone who will go for it.”

Montgomerie made his Ryder Cup debut 30 years ago and, in a career of shimmering achievement and unwavering longevity, the eight-time European No 1 still has goals to strive for.

After the haunting losses and near misses in the majors on the regular tour, Monty won three senior majors in the US between 2014 and 2015. The Senior Open is the one he craves. As each season passes, and a new influx of highly-competitive 50-year-old rookies come on to the circuit, that task gets harder and harder. At 58, though, Monty’s competitive fires and lofty ambitions refuse to be doused.

“I’m here to win,” he declared with trademark bullishness. “The biggest achievement I’ve ever had was winning three PGA titles in a row just down the road from Sunningdale at Wentworth. To win here at 58 against a lot of good 50-year-olds would be right up there.”

The sizeable carrot on the stick for the champion this week is an invitation to next year’s 150th Open at St Andrews while Montgomerie, who was third the last time the Senior Open was staged at Sunningdale, is also keen to get one particular golfing monkey off his back.

“I’ve never won an R&A event,” he said of his individual record in the championships that are run by the game’s governing body. “I was second in The Open to Tiger Woods and runner-up to Jose Maria Olazabal in the Amateur Championship. I picked two real beauties to come up against there didn’t I?”

Montgomerie once famously stated that he would never play on over-50s circuit. At the time of that declaration, the golf writers immediately shovelled great fistfuls of salt down their thrapples. He was never going to slip off quietly into the night.

“When I turned 50 I thought I would be ready to stop competing but I wasn’t,” he said. “The ambition, the drive and the will to win was still there. If that goes, then we’ll buy a couple of Labradors, move to St Andrews and walk the dogs on the West Sands. But here we are at 58 and we’re still going strong.”

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