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Golf News Feature: - Posted 13th March 1998

Cheap shots at top Scot are out of bounds

From The Times - 13th March

Rummaging around on my desk the other night, I came upon a card.

Colin S. Montgomerie BA it said on the top line with the words European Tour Golf Professional in capital letters underlined beneath. In the bottom left-hand corner was his address in Troon, Ayrshire, and in the bottom right his telephone number.

It was a hangover from the mid-Eighties, the days when Montgomerie was just starting on his career as a pro and felt he needed publicity.

Now a multimillionaire, Europe's No 1 these past five years appears to be everyone's punchbag. The latest attack has come from a weekly sports magazine in the United States.

The bilious article was entitled "Here Come Da Scot" and subtitled "Never-popular Colin Montgomerie brings his bluster to the States".

The second and third sentences went as follows: "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 we last despised him, Monty was leading Europe past our Ryder Cup team after ripping our boys in the press."

To make matters worse, the article was anonymous. No one had the courage to stand up and be counted, just as one of the three people who were quoted was that well-known source, "an insider".

Why does Montgomerie attract such contumely? It is, partly, because he deserves it. He can be churlish, badly behaved and rude. There are moments when the overriding feeling of observers is to grab him and shriek: "Colin, stop behaving like an idiot. You are letting yourself down."

Montgomerie, then, is no saint, but nor is Tiger Woods, who has been known to utter an obscenity after a poor stroke and bang his club on the ground now and then. He swore at a lady official at a tournament earlier this year. But, whereas Woods's behaviour is excused as being passionate, Montgomerie's is considered intemperate and rude.

Montgomerie cannot help the complexion of his face, though he hardly deserves to be described in this article as "the pasty Scot . . . a firth-class jerk". The most gratuitous insult hitherto had been David Feherty's nickname for Montgomerie of Mrs Doubtfire.

Feherty described the Scot when angry as resembling "a bulldog", among other things. It was to Montgomerie's credit that, though hurt by such stinging - and funny - insults, he did not lower himself to respond to them.

Woods gets away with it; Montgomerie does not. Sam Torrance gets away with it; Montgomerie does not. In these columns three years ago I likened Torrance and Montgomerie to characters in a Bateman cartoon. Torrance is "The Scot Who Can Do No Wrong" while Montgomerie is "The Scot They Cannot Warm To". I suggested that "Sam could covet his neighbour's wife, not to mention his ox and his ass, steal his malt whisky and do cartwheels down the main street of Auchtermuchty while 15 sheets to the wind, and the people who are so reproving of Montgomerie would merely cluck, shake their heads and say "Och Sam, he's just a gallus [rascal]."

Montgomerie does not suffer fools gladly. He is highly intelligent and ambitious and one of those rare people who is gifted enough at golf to achieve all that he has having expended half as much perspiration and spent half as much time on the practice ground as his rivals.

In what is beginning to resemble a vendetta against him, critics overlook that he is the finest golfer in Europe week in and week out. Davis Love III says Montgomerie hits the best iron-shots that he has ever seen, admiring particularly the ball flight and accuracy.

No one in golf talks so articulately and concisely as Montgomerie - when he wants to. He says things sometimes that would be better left unsaid. Remarks about Brad Faxon's divorce before the Ryder Cup last year come into that category.

Montgomerie is at his peak, a man who has had two seconds, a third and a tenth in the US Open and a second in the US PGA Championship, losing play-offs in both events.

His drive on the 18th in his singles match in the Ryder Cup last year was described recently by Severiano Ballesteros as one of the strokes of the year. It is to be hoped that Montgomerie's reaction to this wave of hostility in the US would be to silence his critics by winning tournaments.

If the events of the past week were a boxing match, and at times Montgomerie must feel that his life resembles a contest against the rest of the world, the referee would have stopped the bout and warned his opponent about low blows. "Gloves up" would have been the command. "A clean fight, please. Box on!"

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