European golfing legend Colin Montgomerie is a man who needs no introduction int he golf community.
Monty, as he’s known, is one of the greatest Ryder Cup competitors in history, a winner of 31 events on the European Tour, and a 2013 inductee into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Colin Montgomerie was coming off 3rd place finish at the Insperity Invitational in Texas when I had a chance to speak to him about his scotch partnership with the Loch Lomond Distillery in his native Scotland.
We also spoke about the upcoming Ryder Cup in Rome, how the European team can keep up, if there will be LIV Golf competitors on the teams, Tiger Woods’ future, and rolling back the golf ball for professionals.
Cass: What drew you to the Loch Lomond Whisky partnership?
Colin Montgomerie: I’ve been an ambassador for Loch Lomond Whisky now for 5 or 6 years since Loch Lomond took over being the official Scotch Whisky of the Open Championship, known now as the Spirit of the Open.
I’ve been working with Michael Henry, who’s the Chief Distiller there at Loch Lomond Distillery, making a whisky that carries my name.
And I’ve been Ambassador for that particular company, and it’s fantastic to be that way. You know, golf and whisky are synonymous really. You either have a whisky before the round, during (the round), after, or one of the three.
A lot of whiskies are drunk around golf courses around the world. Wherever we speak, what is probably happening now in Singapore is happening now in London or whatever the case may be so fantastic. So it’s great to be an ambassador for that whisky group.
Colin Montgomerie on which style of scotch whisky he prefers
Cass: Do you prefer Highland or Islay style scotches or is there a style you gravitate towards?
Colin Montgomerie: My own, you know, a single malt. It’s, it’s, it’s won all sorts of awards. It’s a Double Gold winner at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition which proves that it’s a very good, clean whisky and I enjoy it myself.
Colin Montgomery on Team USA’s Ryder Cup shortcomings on European soil
Cass: What do you attribute the U.S. Team’s inability to win on European soil for 30 years in the Ryder Cup to?
Colin Montgomerie: I know, it’s amazing, isn’t it? It’s incredible. It’s a record that you wouldn’t believe when you read (it). You think surely America has won the Ryder Cup within the last 30 years abroad? And yet, and yet, they haven’t.
There’s been some great teams sent over and not managed to win. I don’t know whether it’s the food or the weather or, I don’t know what it is, the jetlag. Something’s not quite right but it might change this year, I’m afraid. We’re under pressure.
You know, the Americans have got a very strong team and they’ve kept a winning formula. Though Zach Johnson’s the captain now, they’ve kept Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker, and Davis Love III, they’re all going over there to help out.
They’ve got a winning formula now and they want to try and keep it now, you know. But the last five Ryder Cups have been won by the home team. So home advantage is massive in the Ryder Cup.
Although there’ll be lots of American support, it’s got to be 90% European (spectators), you would think. And it makes a difference in the Ryder Cup going from the green to the next tee to have that support for you.
It does give you the extra five yards. And, you know, it’s obviously helped us not, not having lost the Ryder Cup now for 30 years at home is a record in sport, that not many can achieve. We’re very proud of it.
Why Some European Players Like Sergio Garcia Thrive In The Ryder Cup
Cass: Are there any individual characteristics of a golfer that creates such a perfect Ryder Cup competitor like Sergio Garcia and yourself? Characteristics that present themselves in a Ryder Cup more than say, on tour?
Colin Montgomerie: I think it all goes back to the days you talk about the character of the player… It all goes back to Seve Ballesteros, to be honest, and what he did for the Ryder Cup.
And I think that one word to categorize him would be ‘passion’ or ‘passionate.’ I think that passion, you talk about it and Sergio Garcia has got it. (José María) Olazábal has it. Jon Rahm has it. And they’re all Spanish. It’s amazing. You know, all past winners of The Masters.
But at the same time, it’s it’s a passionate event. And I think we (Team Europe) seem to have a little more passion somehow. I don’t know why it should be that way. But it seems to mean more to the Europeans than it did to the Americans.
I think they’ve caught on and then they worked it out. But it seems to be more important… It seems to be worth more somehow to the European cause. And so we’ll fight like hell to try and keep this record intact, it’s gonna be difficult, the Americans are well ahead in the World Rankings.
You’d have to say that the Americans have 8 world class players to our 4 or 5 world class players. So they’re ahead on that one. But it’s just a matter of how the rookies perform in the Ryder Cup and the singles (play), and how the team gets on in the team room. And everything around that. There’s more to it than just on the golf course. A lot goes on off the golf course, too.
Colin Montgomerie On Ryder Cup Squds And LIV Golfers
Cass: Do you anticipate the team rosters changing much throughout this season? Do you think that the LIV Golfers will be added to the rosters on both sides?
Colin Montgomerie: Yeah, it’s a difficult one… I can’t see any LIV players playing on our team. Mainly because the guys that went to LIV Golf on our side, Ian Poulter, Paul Casey, Graeme McDowell, Lee Westwood, Sergio, these types of guys were on their way out of the of the Ryder Cup scene anyway as players.
The Americans are going to miss more the likes the Brooks Koepka‘s, the Dustin Johnson’s, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed, these types of guys would still possibly be accountable for that Ryder Cup.
So, I feel that the Americans would lose out more. Whether they’re going to be allowed to play or not, I’m not sure. But the Europeans have not lost out in that sense, as much as the Americans will, if that’s the case.
Cass: Coming in as the Ryder Cup underdogs but also the home team with the 30-year record, what do you think the European Team needs to do in order to win?
Colin Montgomerie: Well, I mean, we’ve been underdogs most times. If you had the world rankings together, the Americans are always less than us (ranked closer to #1). So they’re always they’re always favorites.
It’s just a matter of who holes the putts at the right time. And that’s all it is. Whoever is going to hole the putts at the right time is going to win the Ryder Cup.
And I mean on the 7th hole the first day or the 17th hole the last day, wherever it might be, someone’s gonna hole a 7-foot putt that’s gonna win or lose it. It’s going to be close. It always is.
But it’s all down to who holes the putts. And isn’t that the case in all golf, really? Generally, the winner of a stroke play event is always in the top three or four in putting that week, always. You can’t win an event or do welln in an event nowadays finishing 40th in the putting stats. You’ve got to be up there.
And it’s always the putting. It doesn’t matter the driving or the iron play or whatever. It’s always the putting stats that are number one.
Colin Montgomerie on the supertitions of golf
Cass: Do you tend to see the Ryder Cup as a superstitious event? Are you a superstitious golfer yourself?
Colin Montgomerie: I am. Yes, we all are. (But) nothing really different in a Ryder Cup compared to a normal tour event. But I always have my coin that I mark the ball with in my back pocket and I always mark the ball Queen (Elizabeth) up. That’s going to change. King Charles will be on our coin shortly so it will have to be King Charles’ head up on that one.
I never use yellow or red tees because that signifies a water hazard. I only use white tees, I know white signifies out of bounds, but I usually keep it within the boundary of the course.
And I’m sure all the other guys are the same. I see Rory McIlroy takes his own headcover. With his little doggie on the top. He brings his own headcovers with him to put on his new Ryder Cup bags. So yeah, we all have little intricacies that we enjoy. Yeah.
Monty On Regions And Courses He’d Like To See Receive More Golf Play
Cass: Are there any courses of yesteryear on the Tour(s) or regions of Europe you would like to see back in the fold again or be added in the future?
Colin Montgomerie: Yes, there’s a number of courses that unfortunately, aren’t on the tour anymore. I like to see the Majors going to other courses. And The Masters is traditionally one venue. But the US Open has some great courses to go to. The British Open as well. And of course, the PGA.
But at the same time, I would love to see the likes of a Pine Valley or a Cypress Point or one of these classic courses to be able to host a major one day. I know they’re very private clubs that’d be great to open up for the rest of the world to have a look and see how wonderful and beautiful these places are.
Colin Montgomerie On Tiger Woods’ Caddie Joe LaCava Switching Bags
Cass: Joe LaCava, Tiger Woods‘ longtime caddie and friend, permanently moved bags to Patrick Cantlay’s. The outside world seems to read a lot into that about Tiger’s future. As someone on the inside, do you think the golf public is reading too much into that move or does it typically signify that a split will signal a golfer taking an extended period of leave?
Colin Montgomerie: I know what you’re saying… Joe LaCava having won The Masters in ’19. And you thought they’d be together forever but with Tiger only playing once or twice and then he’s out for the rest of the season Joe needs something to do, I suppose.
He needs a purpose in life wether Tiger Woods is paying him or not. He needs a purpose in life to get out of bed and do his job. And he’s too good of a caddie, you know. He’s won many many a tournament with Freddie Couples. He’s too good of a caddie not to be used in many ways.
So I think Tiger would have encouraged it. I think he would’ve encouraged it and when Tiger plays well Tiger can find a caddie of suitable proportion to carry his bag.
So I think it was right that Tiger said to Joe ‘yeah, go on and enjoy yourself. Go on with Patrick Cantlay.’ Obviously, (he’s) top 5 in the world. (Joe’s) not going to someone who can’t play the game, he’s going to a proven winner and I wish them well.
I think more people are reading into it, more than anything. I think when Tiger comes back and plays, let’s hope he does, he can pick up any caddy. Tiger, can we win any caddie. I can’t say that about a lot of players but Tiger, Tiger’s different, and he can win with any caddie. I think it’s a positive step for everybody, really.
Tiger Woods’ Future In Golf?
Cass: Do you think Tiger will have it in him to win on the Champions Tour when he turns 50 in three years?
Colin Montgomerie: Well, if he comes out it would be great for the Champions Tour. If he comes out and plays, people talk about ‘oh, he can ride a cart’ and all this stuff.
But if he’s only playing in the Majors he can’t ride a cart, so that’s unfortunate. So he’s got to think about that. Also, you can’t just turn up and expect to win as well. The standard on the Champions Tour is incredibly high.
He’s got to bring a game with him. Yes, he’ll do well, of course he’s Tiger Woods. But he’s got to bring a game with him. And it’ll be great for our Tour if he does happen to play even once it’d be great to see him.
Monty On Rolling The Ball Back
Cass: There has been a lot of talk this year about rolling back the ball. Do you think that will happen across the Tours?
Colin Montgomerie: I think it will happen eventually, I do. I think it will happen and when they got all parties together.
This bifurcation business, meaning that we play with the same equipment and the same balls as any amateur player. I think the days are gone of that. I really do .I feel that we should be using a professional golf ball that doesn’t go as far as the ball does now.
We need to have that because (with) these old traditional courses, you know, we can’t keep buying land. We can’t keep watering that land. Ecology is such that we can’t keep watering these new tees, this new land, getting new labor to try and to try and cut this grass and to try and maintain it…
I think it’s a mistake to try and play the same equipment as the amateurs nowadays. I think it’s time that we that we learned from from the so-called mistakes and go back to a ball that goes 85% of the distance.
Now the longer hitters will still be long. (Just) as Tiger was in his day the longest. But we’ve got to get back in the modern world, really. And say, look, we’re one of the only sports that actually brings our own equipment to the game. Baseball players don’t bring the balls to the game. Footballers don’t. The basketball players don’t. The tennis players don’t. But the golfers do. It’s weird. So we should be given a ball to play with and get on with it.
(This interview has been edited for length and clarity)