As is often the case with sportsmen, or sportswomen, who reach almost, but not quite, the pinnacle of their profession, labelling Colin Montgomerie a ‘nearly man’ may seem a little harsh. After all, in his heyday, in the Nineties, the Scotsman was a force majeure in European golf. He won total of 31 European Tour events, more than any other British golfer, and the season-long Order of Merit a record eight times, including seven years running between 1993 and 1999. Indeed, Montgomerie is still active on PGA Tour Champions, which he joined in June, 2013, where he is a three-time senior major champion.
However, the ‘nearly man’ tag stems from the fact that, despite several near-misses, Montgomerie never won a tournament, of any description, on the regular PGA Tour and never won a major championship. At the peak of his powers, ‘Monty’ was eliminated in an 18-hole playoff for the 1994 US Open, eventually won by Ernie Els, and again lost in a playoff, this time sudden-death, to Steve Elkington at the 1995 PGA Championship. At the 1997 US Open, he again lost out to Els, by a single stroke, having bogeyed the penultimate hole. At the 2005 Open Championship, Montgomerie finished second in a major championship again, albeit five shots behind wire-to-wire winner Tiger Woods.
Sadly, one more dramatic capitulation was to follow. At the 2006 US Open, Montgomery stood in the middle of the fairway on the final 450-yard par-4 requiring a par to win his maiden major. However, his poorly struck 7-iron approach shot finished short and right of the putting surface and, a pitch and three putts later, he carded a double-bogey six. Montgomery eventually finished co-second of three, alongside Jim Furyk and Phil Mickelson – both of whom also failed to par the seventy-second hole – a shot adrift of Australian Geoff Ogilvy.