Colin Montgomerie's career achievements include a record eight European Order of Merit titles as the top money earner on the European Tour, more than 40 wins worldwide, five runner-up finishes in majors, and, since turning 50 just two years ago, three senior major titles. In 2013, "Monty" was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Montgomerie spent most of his pre-Champions Tour career playing the European Tour, and consequently became known to U.S. golf fans primarily through his close calls at the majors and his storied dominance in the Ryder Cup, where his record of 20-9-7 is second in history only to Sir Nick Faldo's. He also captained the winning Euro team in 2010 at Celtic Manor. As such, Monty is sometimes painted as a golf villain here in the U.S.
In person, though, Montgomerie stands in stark contrast to this perception. He is genial, even chatty, and he's happy to share a seemingly endless supply of stories from his 30-plus years as a globetrotting giant of golf.
He was recently at a corporate event hosted by Aberdeen Asset Management, one of Montgomerie's main sponsors, at Conway Farms Golf Club outside of Chicago. He offered attendees putting tips and some full-swing instruction before we all headed out to play the venue of the 2015 BMW Championship. He joined each group and played along with them for a couple of holes, as well, and finished the day by presenting team prizes and fielding questions from the group.
After the round and before the prizes, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Monty one-on-one to ask his views on the recent majors, as well as his insights into golf travel around the world.
Golf Advisor: You've just come down from the PGA Championship in Wisconsin at Whistling Straits, where you played the first two days and commentated the second two. What did you think of the championship?
Montgomerie: It was a great, great tournament. The PGA should be thrilled. Saturday at the PGA was one of the best days [of major golf] that I have ever seen. I think it was a superb event. I think the best player won, which means [the Straits Course at Whistling Straits] was set up perfectly. That golf Saturday and Sunday was great. People turned on their TVs for the first time in a long time without Tiger playing on the weekend.
If there were a competition between the PGA and USGA this year, the PGA has come out on top by a mile. There is no comparison [between Whistling Straits and Chambers Bay]. My wife and daughter were very excited about coming out to watch me at Chambers Bay. They saw 15 shots that I hit. I assure you, I hit more than that. This was rather shocking considering [Chambers Bay] was made to host a U.S. Open.
Golf Advisor: So you think Whistling Straits will be a good venue for the 2020 Ryder Cup?
Montgomerie: I think it will be fantastic. The course is full of risk-reward opportunities, which is just what you want for match play. It will be a fabulous event.
Golf Advisor: Now that you're on the Champions Tour, you're playing most of your schedule in the U.S. What differences do you see in the ethos or culture of golf between the U.S. and U.K.?
Montgomerie: The U.S. is set up for excess baggage, oversized baggage. Even your cars have the space for "heavy travelers" -- golfers travel heavy. In Europe of course, everything's tighter for space, including the cars. America seems to be set up more for the traveler -- the heavy traveler. It's easier to find your way around in the States. There are more straight lines here. America's easy -- the whole place is set up for ease of travel. And at 52 years of age, I'll take a little easy, thank you very much. As for the courses, it's the way they're presented. In the States, they're manicured perfectly. Which is almost too bad, really. It's almost become expected.
Golf Advisor: You've played all over the world. Where would you suggest U.S. golfers looking for a unique golf experience travel to, not counting the U.K.?
Montgomerie: Dubai. The Middle East -- Dubai. Especially the best course in Dubai is obviously Montgomerie Dubai [The Address Montgomerie Dubai], which is of course the best course in the world, really -- it's just that people don't all see it like that. [Laughs.] We play some superb courses in the Dubai-Abu Dhabi area, which are one hour apart. Abu Dhabi has Saadiyat Island, Yas Links, The Abu Dhabi National Club, which is where they play the HSBC Tournament every year, and the Emirates Club, where they play the Dubai Desert Classic every year, which I managed to win in 1996. There's got to be 15 or 16 golf clubs in Dubai, and I would recommend every one of them. They are superb. Service in Dubai is first-class. Dubai is a destination that Americans don't go to, because it's a long way to go, but it is definitely worth the trip. Everyone who goes is fascinated by it. It is an extraordinary place, not just for golf. When they come back, they'll go "Wow!"
Golf Advisor: How about hidden gems in the U.K.?
Montgomerie: Well, North Berwick is certainly one. The North Berwick West Course is a complete gem, just south of Muirfield. If you want to go north, I suppose it's not a hidden gem anymore, but the Castle Stuart is fantastic. And on the west coast, where I'm from, where the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open was held is the Dundonald Links, which is a new course that is just great. And, of course, in the northeast, Trump International. I opened it with Donald Trump. We played together a few years ago. Potentially, that's one of the greatest courses in the world. So there's some courses that might not be on the radar. And if you're going to Castle Stuart, you can go a few miles north and play Royal Dornoch.
Golf Advisor: Final question. You have a night on the town, anywhere in the world, dinner and drinks. Where do you go and what do you order?
Montgomerie: Hong Kong. I'd be overlooking the Hong Kong harbor, which is a sight to behold. From the Kowloon side, overlooking to the island, which is the best view of the island of Hong Kong. And I would order a tomato mozzarella salad, followed by a sirloin steak. And that would be -- well, you just can't beat that. That view just can't be beaten. I was there for my first time in 1984, playing in the Eisenhower Trophy for Great Britain. And it just keeps getting better. Again, not next door to the States, but if you can get there, it is Asia's city.