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Monty eyes Lytham major

By Richard Williamson

COLIN Montgomerie owns up to enjoying a new lease of golfing life thanks to the Seniors Tour – and for finding that his competitive spirit burns as strongly as ever.

The 55-year-old was a dominant force on the European Tour as he finished as number one in the rankings on eight separate occasions as he racked up more than 600 appearances and landed 31 titles.

But he admitted that as he approached his personal half century, his golf game was going nowhere.

“Between the ages of 47 and 50 I had gone kind of stale, I was treading water,” he said. “Most of the others were playing longer as I was getting shorter!

“I probably did not still expect to be playing competitive golf when I was 50, but then it feels like 50 is the new 40 and as I approached that point I thought why not give the Seniors Tour a go. And I have thoroughly enjoyed it; it has been six years now and I hope to go on for another six!

“It is a high standard of golf and there is a great atmosphere at the events. Everybody on Tour is still very ambitious, that’s why we are doing what we do; we are very competitive people! I played with Tom Watson in Japan recently and he is coming up to 70. But if you had seen the look in his eyes when he holed a birdie putt you would see what it still meant to him.”

The only thing missing from Montgomerie’s stellar CV before reaching the qualifying age for Saga holidays was one of the sport’s four majors. He came close, though, finishing runner-up on five occasions along the way to 10 top 10 finishes.

But that changed when he turned 50. In 2014 Monty secured his first senior major at the PGA Championship … and then he couldn’t stop. The US Senior Open followed in the July with a successful defence of his PGA title the following year.

“I never won a major, but I got close, so to win a Seniors one with all those great players in the field, to take them on over four days and to know I was coming down the 18ththree shots ahead was a lovely feeling and a special moment.

“I count myself lucky to be doing this. I don’t think there is another sport where you could be playing competitively at this age…. In football or rugby then you are probably finished at 35. So to be playing competitively at nearly 56 and winning a major is a wonderful thing.”

Montgomerie will be hoping to add another major title to his haul on home soil when the Seniors Open presented by Rolex comes to Royal Lytham St Anne’s next month (July 24-28).

And it is one he would dearly love to add to the growing collection.

“I would love to add a R&A title; I was runner-up in The Open, the British Amateur and the Youth Championship so to win one would be special.”

Lytham holds bittersweet memories for Montgomerie after he teed up one of his best opportunities to chase down that elusive major in 2001.

“I shot 65 on the first day and I was still leading after 36 holes, but just could not finish if off over the weekend. But the support was fantastic and I am looking forward to returning. I’ll get a couple of practice rounds in ahead of the tournament itself. I drive the ball pretty straight and if you can stay out of the bunkers round here you have got a chance.”

And the man who also twice holed the winning putt in a Ryder Cup, in 1997 and 2004, says the desire to win remains as strong as ever.

“Even just standing up on the first tee for some publicity shots had me buzzing with anticipation. I was thinking that you can’t afford to go left from here because of the bunkers. My caddie and I will work out where to go to avoid the trouble. And then, if the putts drop I have a real chance of doing well.”