U.S. Open: Why Colin Montgomerie Will Be in Contention This Year

Stephen Nixon@@Steve_A_NixonContributor IIJune 9, 2015

Colin Montgomerie celebrates after sinking a putt on the 18th green to win, during a three-hole aggregate playoff with Gene Sauers in the final round of the  U.S. Senior Open golf tournament at Oak Tree National in Edmond, Okla., Sunday, July 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

It's been seven years since Colin Montgomerie last played in the U.S. Open. However, at the tender age of 51, this could be his best chance at glory.

Montgomerie is very familiar with USGA's most glorified championship. In 16 appearances, he's made 13 cuts, including four top-five finishes. Although the success has been imminent, it's the failure that has haunted him.

Finishing second at a U.S. Open isn't considered a disappointment for many golfers. Doing it three times, though, can start to get frustrating. It's not like he's finished second quietly either. It's been a gut-wrenching voyage that has some titling him the "best to never win a PGA Tour major."

Montgomerie's initial disheartening experience with the golf season's second major championship happened in 1994. Finishing first on the 1993 European Tour Order of Merit, Montgomerie had established himself as a championship contender.

And after 36 holes of play, Montgomerie held a two-shot lead. 

While that outright lead slipped away for Montgomerie, he still found himself in an 18-hole three-way playoff for the U.S. Open Championship. However, Montgomierie couldn't recover after starting the playoff four-over through three holes, and he was ultimately forced to watch Ernie Els win his first career major.

Three years later, Els was once again the Kryptonite to Montgomerie's first major championship. Els captured the 1997 U.S. Open Championship by one stroke, leaving Montgomerie in solo second.

After coming so close to winning, getting that next shot at victory is unpredictable. Following yet another second-place finish in a major championship at the 2005 Open Championship, Montgomerie was hopeful for one more opportunity.

That opportunity happened at the 2006 U.S. Open Championship.

Montgomerie took a one-shot lead heading into the 72nd hole after draining a bomb for birdie on the previous hole. The big moment had always gotten to Montgomerie, but he seemed unfazed by the pressure, blasting a driver down the middle.

Leaving only a mid-iron in his hands and 171 yards to the pin, a par at the very least could secure him a playoff berth, if not the win. 

And then it happened.   

Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. Montgomerie's untimely double bogey gave him yet another runner-up finish.

"With the other chances I had other players who have done well; Ernie [Els] did well and Steve Elkington holed a putt and then Ernie did well again. This is the first one I've really messed up, which is OK," said Montgomerie, via Lawrence Donegan of the Guardian.

After all of the pain and suffering, there's been a new hope for Montgomerie. The Champions Tour has given him a resurgence that has made him confident and graceful.

Nine years removed from that dreadful day at Winged Foot, Montgomerie has three senior major championships and is arguably the world's hottest player over 50.

Following his 2015 Senior PGA Championship win, Montgomerie reflected on the past, via Golf.com,  

I feel fantastic, really, superb...There's a motto: `If you fail and fail, you come back and try again.' I've had a couple of failures here in America and close calls, especially in major championships, and it's great to finally win, never mind a Champions Tour event, but a Senior PGA Championship event.

That clear and positive mindset should make Montgomerie a sleeper pick at this year's U.S. Open. The bitter failure has only motivated him to play better, and his three senior major championships shouldn't be taken lightly.

Although many golfers have indifferent comments about Chambers Bay, the course should be inviting for the Glasgow, Scotland native. Length may be an issue for the veteran, but his expertise and ball-striking should keep him relevant.

Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

Via Matthew Rudy of Golf Digest, New York teacher Michael Jacobs explained Montgomerie's advantage:

Monty has always been an incredible ball-striker, and it's because of how stable he is down through the ball...He repeats that 'execution phase' over and over again, and he makes such good contact that wind doesn't really bother his shots.

As a four-time European Tour Player of the Year and member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, Montgomerie should feel right at home with Chambers Bay's links-style setup.  

Today's golfing world is centered on the young superstars like Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. However, at a course so complex as Chambers Bay, maybe it will be old Monty who secures his first non-senior major championship.

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