Mature Colin Montgomerie finding major mojo at U.S. Senior Open

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The kiddie swimming pool at Del Paso Country Club is 1½ feet deep. Too shallow for Colin Montgomerie.

The adult pool is 9 feet deep. What I want to see is Montgomerie jumping gleefully into the air and performing a perfect cannonball in the deep end. I easily could sell tickets.

Golf fans love to watch Montgomerie. There is something of a Monty fascination in the United States. Some spectators just want to taunt him. Others, though, appreciate his shotmaking ability and his love for the game.

When the U.S. Senior Open starts Thursday at Del Paso, Montgomerie will be the favorite. He owns a three-tournament winning streak in the Senior PGA Championship and U.S. Senior Open. He won the Senior PGA in 2014 and 2015 and also claimed last year’s Senior Open, beating Gene Sauers in a sudden-death playoff.

Montgomerie’s achievements in two of the marquee events have been exceptional over the past two years. He turned 52 on June 23, and his domination is unlikely to be interrupted by age.

“I think he’s playing better as a senior than he did on the regular Tour,” said Woody Austin, who tied for third in the 2014 U.S. Senior Open and was solo third in this year’s Senior PGA Championship.

In his younger days, Montgomerie was unusually sensitive to crowd commotion and frequently backed away from shots when there was too much noise. At times, he tangled verbally with unruly American fans.

This seems to have changed. Monty appears happier and more relaxed. He is more mellow. Fans in the U.S. are embracing him more than ever before.

“I believe I have been able to place golf in the proper perspective,” Montgomerie said. “I want to win, but there are many other important elements in my life.”

Take your pick: He is more well-rounded; he is more mature; he has grown up; he does not define himself strictly by his performance on the golf course.

I give him credit for adding credibility to the philosophy that golf is the game of a lifetime. He is playing with a remarkable consistency on the Champions Tour in 2015: first in money ($1,043,700), first in Charles Schwab Cup points (1,616), second in scoring average (69.84), fourth in greens in regulation (75.79 percent) and fifth in birdies per round (4.13).

Although Montgomerie led the Order of Merit on the European Tour for seven years in a row and was a Ryder Cup standout, he never won a major championship among the four non-senior majors: Masters, U.S. Open, Open Championship and PGA Championship.

Playing in 72 of those majors, he posted five runner-up finishes, two in playoff losses.

Now, as a senior, he is suddenly a juggernaut. Good for him. He is realizing his potential as a player and as a likable guy who contributes substantially to the game.

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