Appreciating Monty

IAN HUTCHINSON -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:42 AM ET

TROON, Scotland -- The whistling wind outside the quaint Marine Hotel is a wakeup call for a guest who defies the sore back and legs from a week of walking Scottish courses and springs from his bed to shut a window that had been left slightly open.

The scene from the window paints a picture of what to expect from a round at Dundonald, a recent addition to the Loch Lomond Golf Club. The whitecaps of the sea are off in the distance as a solitary figure puts his head down and battles the elements on his way up a fairway at nearby Royal Troon.

The gray panorama outside means no waffling on apparel decisions. This will definitely be a four-layer day, which is what you expect from Scotland in October.

What isn't expected is the answer to a question inside the Caddy Shack pub, the post-round watering hole of choice for this group in the heart of Troon, which is Colin Montgomerie country.

At the age of 42, it's a good bet that Monty will clinch his eighth European Tour Order of Merit this week at the Volvo Masters in Spain after taking seven in a row in the 1990s.

After his runner-up finish at this year's Open Championship at St. Andrews, combined with his standout performance at last year's Ryder Cup, one would think Montgomerie would be the recipient of a collective "Well done!" not only in Troon but across Scotland.

However, the reaction is more subdued for a player who has earned jeers and cheers in the United States. Back home in Troon, they definitely respect his talents and accomplishments. They wish him well but don't exactly spring to his defence for the way he has been treated abroad over the years.

Like the rest of the world, they can't seem to figure Montgomerie out either.

The passion with which they speak of him falls well short of the Canadian reaction when Mike Weir won the Masters. Of course, it's well-documented that Monty still is without the major championship that could be his maker or breaker for induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

"It's not just here because it's Troon. All of Scotland would like to see him win his major," said Jimmy Main, one of the lads inhabiting Caddy Shack this day.

"He's the only pro that Scotland can rely on," added Grant Watson, better known as "Watty" in the Caddy Shack. "Paul Lawrie won his Open (in 1999) but hasn't done much since then. (Montgomerie) needs to win a major. I liken Monty to Tom Kite, who played so well for so many years before finally getting his major."

Montgomerie earned the wrath of North American fans with his dour game face and occasionally tempestuous behaviour over the years. While the reaction to Monty in Troon isn't as cutting, it is more apathetic than enthusiastic for someone who is as much an enigma at home as he is overseas.

"The people who don't like him, really don't like him. The people who do like him, really like him, but the people who know golf appreciate him. He has got Scotland in his heart. I'm not his biggest fan but I do appreciate what he has done for Scottish golf," Watson said. "He's a very complex character."

Main suggests pathos may be a reason for recent attention paid to Montgomerie after a well-publicized split with his wife and his game tanking for a while. In many respects, his story is not unlike that of John Daly even if he is a more button-down and white collar than Big John with less charisma.

"Not every sportsman can be a great personality. Monty will hold the door open for you. He's a very polite guy but if he (messes) up, that's what the media is for and they should go after him."

The media will be kind with yet another Order of Merit, perhaps another standout Ryder Cup and certainly if he wins that long-awaited major in the next year or so. At that point, he will be defined as a player, if not as a personality and the popularity will naturally follow -- at home and abroad.


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