“I’m supposed to be relaxing in my 50s but I’m busier than ever,” said Colin Montgomerie at Royal Lytham and St Annes this week – but this giant of golf is delighted that the Staysure Tour for senior players just gets bigger and bigger.
Monty may turn 56 on Sunday but the prospect of theThe Senior Open presented by Rolex coming to the Fylde coast next month clearly fills him with youthful enthusiasm and energy.
The Senior Open is the highlight of the Staysure Tour – formerly the European Senior Tour – for players aged 50 and over, and the world-famous Fylde links will stage the championship for the first time in 25 years from July 25-28.
Fresh from competing in Japan, Ryder Cup great Montgomerie is now back in Wisconsin, USA, for a tournament ahead of next week’s US Senior Open, but he found time in his hectic schedule to visit Royal Lytham and St Annes to share his excitement about The Senior Open presented by Rolex.
“When the schedule came out and it was Royal Lytham I was very happy,” he told The Gazette. “We’ve played The Open courses in the last few years – Carnoustie, Birkdale, St Andrews – and it’s nice to be at this one.
“I love this course. I led after the first day in The Open here in 2001 and was still leading after the second. The support was super.
“David Duval did extremely well to win but I have had success here. That 65 on the first day was a course record at the time.
“The Americans I speak to over The Pond are looking forward to coming here, all the Brits are and so is everyone else.”
And he is convinced the relentless rise of the Seniors game will be reflected in healthy attendances at Royal Lytham and St Annes.
“I think the crowds will be an awful lot bigger than anticipated,” he said. “They were great for the Ladies’ Open last year, which was a super success for Lytham and for British golf with Georgia Hall winning. The weather was good and the course looked great.
“It’s a great catchment area for golf, with Manchester and Liverpool nearby. And with the Open being over in Ireland this year I think we’ll get good crowds. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Monty’s familiarity with the course and its dangers – as well the British coastal weather – could work to his advantage.
“The challenge here is to stay out of the bunkers,” he said. “There are a hell of a lot of them – more here than on any other course on The Open rota.
“But that’s the key for links golf, period: stay out of the bunkers and you have a chance. Go in them and you have a brick wall in front of you, a wall of horror.
“You have to hit the fairways. Even in the slightest rough you are no longer in control. But if you start from the fairway links golf isn’t that bad.
“I’ve become a fair weather golfer, but knowing this course as well as I do a bit of breeze won’t be bad for me. You expect that here, though.
“The course is as green as I’ve ever seen it in June, so let’s hope it plays as well as it can.”
It’s certainly a course to inspire Montgomery, and this three-time Senior Major winner admits his game has lacked a little spark so far this season.
“I haven’t had a win or a second this season and that really helps. I need a top-three to get going. I’m more consistent this season and keep finishing in the top 10, but I feel I’m just treading water.”
There’s certainly no lack of motivation for the eight-time European Tour number one, who won more European titles than any other British player (31). Mongomerie added: “I always thought the European Tour was a big family but Sam Torrance told me the Seniors Tour was the best in the world and he’s right.
“The competitive side remains – that’s why we do it – but there’s a camaraderie that wasn’t there before.
“All the money you were playing for could negate that camaraderie, but on this tour we have a beer after a round and we are all genuinely happy for each other’s success.
“After we finish in Phoenix in November we go straight to Japan, India and Dubai. I don’t get home until December 17 and it’s supposed to be relaxing!
“But the game is in a good place and I’ve got something to do.
“I’m practising more than I ever have because I want to be part of it. The drive and ambition is still there.
“Well done to whoever wins at Royal Lytham because I know how tough it is to win in any business.”
Tickets for The Senior Open presented by Rolex start from £13.50 and are available via https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-senior-open-presented-by-rolex-2019-tickets-50085470992. Hospitality options in The Lehman Lounge are also available. Entry for under-16s and parking are free.