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Monty’s Newest Challenge

June 27 is a date that may have little or no resonance for you but there is one home in Scotland where it assumes the proportions of the Second Coming. In Dunning, a speck of a village a few miles from Gleneagles, Colin Montgomerie has been preparing for his debut on the Champions Tour in the U.S. with an intensity for which he is not noted. Montgomerie turned 50 on Sunday and this week will compete in the Senior Players Championship. He has been saved from having to qualify for the Champions Tour by being inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame last month. If his appearances in the U.S. to date in a career that began after he turned pro in 1987 can be lumped together as his first coming, then this is indeed his second coming in the States. And as he prepares for it, anxiety is currently obvious on his, how shall we phrase this politely, full face, though it is less full than it used to be. He has lost more than one stone while preparing and was seen at a driving range morning after morning earlier this year as he strove to regain a satisfactory semblance of golfing skill. Monty is proud of what he has achieved in golf, which includes 40 victories around the world, and eight Orders of Merit on the European Tour, seven in a row starting in 1993, four top-three finishes in the U.S. Open, eight Ryder Cup appearances and six victories and two halves in his singles. A record such as this means he is unusually concerned lest his form on his arrival in the U.S. might be scratchy at best, shocking at worst. Clear in his mind is a tournament in India this year when he finished plumb last. Winston Churchill described Russia as being a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. If you think that’s complicated, meet Monty. He is a paradox contained in a conundrum within a puzzle. Though born in Troon, Scotland, most of his upbringing was in England. Though said to be educated privately at Strathallan, one of Scotland’s leading public (i.e. private, fee-paying) schools he attended that school only for one year, making a name for himself as a good rugger player and an excellent bowler and good batsman at cricket, before transferring to a grammar [i.e. state, free] school in Yorkshire, England. A man proud to wear the Saltire on his sweater at tournaments in Scotland, he chose to live for years in a Tory enclave in southeast England. A man with many acquaintances, he has very few friends. The contradictions in his character are mirrored by the way the Scots consider him English and a bit of a toff, two characteristics that condemn him to damnation north of Hadrian’s Wall, while the English regard him as a privately educated toff but a Scot and thus not one of them. The battle lines have been drawn for some time now concerning Colin Stuart Montgomerie OBE, which stands for Order of the British Empire and is not a piece of paper that comes through the post but is instead a medal given to him by Her Majesty the Queen in a tradition-laden ceremony at Buckingham Palace, a medal he can pin to his chest and is encouraged to do so. Britain, remember, may not have an Empire but still behaves as though she has; several, in fact. Mention of Monty’s name divides golf followers into those who are for him and advocate his cause as one who has contributed significantly to the game despite not winning a major championship, and those who denigrate his achievements and are mindful of his petulant tantrums and his brushes with authority. Those in the latter group question Montgomerie’s induction into the WGHOF last month.


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