More than two decades after his Ryder Cup singles debut in 1991, Colin Montgomerie still vividly recalls a pep talk he received from Bernard Gallacher on the fortitude needed to outlast Mark Calcavecchia, a dogged American whom the European captain described as a battler.
In spite of a five-hole deficit at the turn that remained at four with four holes left, the determined young Scot did not surrender. With six birdies on the back nine on Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course, Montgomerie rallied to steal a half point from an incredulous Calcavecchia. In eight career Ryder Cups, it was the closest Montgomerie came to defeat in a singles match. Impervious to the knee-buckling, hair-raising pressure of the biennial event, Montgomerie captured six singles wins from 1991 to 2006, while earning two halves. It prompted the late Seve Ballesteros to assert, “The Ryder Cup has Monty’s name engraved on it.”
“This is one of the finest moments of my golf career, no hang on, this is the greatest moment of my golf career.” - Colin Montgomerie, on winning the 2010 Ryder Cup
As Montgomerie enters the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2013, his triumphs in the Ryder Cup represent the most cherished moments of his four-decade career. On two occasions, the passionate, outspoken Scot clinched the winning points for the Europeans – unleashing jubilant, champagne-soaked celebrations. In 1997 at soggy Valderrama, Montgomerie bisected a curvy fairway with his drive on the par-4 18th and likely would have defeated Scott Hoch, 1 up, had Ballesteros not urged him to concede Hoch’s putt. Seven years later at Oakland Hills, Montgomerie sank a tricky 5-foot putt on the final hole to edge David Toms, 1 up, and seal the Europeans’ second consecutive win.
There is a distinct spot in Montgomerie’s heart reserved for the Ryder Cup. For all his success as a player, he derives the most pride from his win as captain of the European team in 2010 at Celtic Manor. In The Real Monty, Montgomerie’s 2012 autobiography, he wrote that while he’d be thrilled to win a British Open or another major, neither would come close to the feeling he received by leading his team to victory.
“This is one of the finest moments of my golf career, no hang on, this is the greatest moment of my golf career,” Montgomerie said during his winning speech.
Born in Glascow, Scotland, on June 23, 1963, but raised in Yorkshire, England, Montgomerie honed his skills from a young age at the Ilkley Golf Club in Yorkshire. The Alister MacKenzie course may be known most as the club where Harry Vardon won his first professional prize in 1893. Eventually, Montgomerie became one of the first British golfers to play collegiately in the United States when he walked on at Baptist College in Houston. Montgomerie’s father, James, then a secretary at Royal Troon, had a connection with the Christian liberal arts school’s golf coach through a minister. After college, he turned pro shortly after in 1987.
Colin Montgomerie carried the Olympic Torch through Aberdeen, Scotland in the run-up to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
Often regarded as the best contemporary golfer never to win a major, Montgomerie finished second in professional Grand Slam events five different times.
Despite his inability to win a major, Montgomerie ruled the European Tour in the 1990s. He was the Tour’s top player, and a number of his accomplishments are unparalleled. He owns the all-time record for European Merit of Order wins with eight. From 1993 to 1999, Montgomerie won the European Tour’s year-long money list competition in seven consecutive seasons, a mark that still stands. At 42, Montgomerie won his eighth and final Order of Merit in 2005.
He won 31 European Tour titles – a record by a British player – including three successive PGA Championships at Wentworth Club and, in total, 40 tournaments worldwide.
Above all, Montgomerie earned the respect of his peers with his illustrious Ryder Cup record. Lee Westwood, too, hadn’t forgotten Montgomerie’s remarkable rally against Calcavecchia moments after Europe’s win at Celtic Manor.
“He’s built up a legacy,” Westwood said. “It’s the cherry on the top, isn’t it, when you can become a winning captain.”