A slimline Colin Montgomerie gives us his thoughts on the modern game, his senior tour success and how he’s kept his competitive edge

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Colin Montgomerie Exclusive: “We’ve Got To Get Back To The Three-Hour Round”

We caught up with one of Europe’s most prolific winners to get his take on how the game is doing and to find out more about that successful career as a senior…

Tell us your views on the state of the game right now – where’s it doing well, where’s it struggling?

Okay, well I think struggling is easy, and it’s time. We’ve got to get back to the three-hour round of golf. I was brought up – and I’m sure you were too – on golf taking three hours, whether it was a two-ball or a three-ball.

Four-balls took a bit longer because one out of the four lost a ball off the tee, but two- and three-balls should take no longer than three hours to play and we’ve lost that. And that’s why a number of people aren’t playing the game who used to – family commitments and all the other stuff that comes into life nowadays.

It’s important we return to those round times. How do we do that? That’s for the powers-that-be, but we have to get back to three hours for playing golf.

Where is golf doing well, then?

I think the pro game is exceptionally strong right now. We’ve got a great group of guys who are leading the way and promoting our game – ambassadors for the game. The Jordan Spieths, the Justin Thomases, the Rickie Fowlers, the Rorys – these guys are really pushing the game forward in a positive light. In the amateur game, there are fewer people who are members of golf clubs because of the time issues, and we want to get them back.

What are the main differences between life on the senior tour and on the regular tour?

It’s a bit more relaxed, but you still want to win and you still have the same feelings about winning before and after. But it is more relaxed. The young guys are in the gyms and focused on God knows what – their biorhythms and all the carry-ons that they have. We’re not! But when the gun goes on Friday morning or Thursday morning, whenever that might be, certainly it’s competitive and that’s why we play.

When your main career was winding down, did you think you would enjoy senior golf?

I didn’t actually. I didn’t think I‘d be playing senior golf. I’m 57 now, so I’ve done this for six years and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed playing against the likes of Bernhard Langer, Fred Couples, Vijay Singh, Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk and now Phil Mickelson – these guys coming through.

These are the guys I was playing against when I was coming through and trying to win Majors against them, and it’s no different now – you’re trying to beat them. You know, the self-esteem goes through the roof if you win a tournament!

Can you shed any light on why some players who didn’t do an awful lot on the regular tour suddenly find their feet on the senior tour?

Yes, Carl Mason, for example, has done very well, and there are also a few guys I play with out on the Champions Tour in America who have done particularly well, but who weren’t tour players as such. I think it’s the relaxed nature of it.

I think they’re made to feel extremely welcome on the tours and once you’ve got that feeling of winning – if I can do it once I can do it again. I think a lot of the guys have felt that and have benefited from it.

When a new batch come out on to the senior tour, is it easy for you to tell who’s going to do well and who isn’t?

Yes, I think so. It’s the guys who have prepared properly. Ernie Els and Retief Goosen have just come out on to our tour and they’ve prepared for it – they’ve kept themselves fit and they’re ready to go. The guys who aren’t prepared take a few years to get into it, so you’ve got to prepare – it’s a business.

We’re 50 years old, we’re too young to stop really, and we’re retired a long time anyway – hopefully – so why not do something between 50 and 60?

Are you enjoying it as much as ever even with living in America, which you never really did in your main tour career?

Yes, I’m over in America for two-thirds of the year. Right now, with the virus spiking, it’s not the best place to be, to be honest, but at the same time it’s my job and that’s what we do.

I’m living there a lot, but I’ve enjoyed it – I’ve enjoyed it thoroughly. They’ve made me extremely welcome. There’s been a warmth and welcoming from the fans in America and I’ve enjoyed that.

If the golfing fairy godmother came along and said you’ve got to sacrifice all your Orders of Merit but you can have one Major, how would you respond?

No, no, no! Thank you very much, but I’ll take what I’ve been given. I wouldn’t sacrifice any of them. I’m very proud of what I’ve achieved, and you never go back – you’re always trying to look forward to the next Senior Major coming along and trying to win that one.

Having won three Senior Majors, I’ve been very fortunate to put that Major disappointment, as such, behind me, and go forward with it. But the eight Orders of Merit were very special times and I wouldn’t give any of those back.

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