2006: U.S. Open - Monty blames only himself

Geoff Ogilvy stood on the 18th tee at Winged Foot West late Sunday afternoon and peered down the fairway at the unmistakable silhouette of Colin Montgomerie. One of the game’s deadliest iron players was staring at the pin, and Ogilvy thought the same thing many onlookers did.

“It’s Monty’s time,” said Ogilvy.

It may have been, but he didn’t seize it. Montgomerie, who has had chances at Open glory before, failed to capitalize after accomplishing the hardest job of all at the 450-yard closing hole – hitting the fairway.

Factoring in the adrenaline pumping through him, he chose 7-iron instead of 6-iron from 172 yards, hit the shot a tad heavy, and watched it nestle into the heavy rough in a bank in front of the green. One long pitch and three putts later, he’d finished with a double-bogey 6, watching his under-par round evaporate into a 71 and finishing at 6-over 286.

Montgomerie turns 43 June 23, and the sting of last week’s Open is likely to stay with him for a while. In the past, he was beaten by a gutsy finish by Tom Kite in the wind at Pebble Beach (1992 U.S. Open) and two strong closing performances by Ernie Els (1994, in a playoff at Oakmont, and 1997, at Congressional). At the 1995 PGA Championship, he got caught by the hot putting of Steve Elkington.

This time, all credit – or blame – for Monty’s finish rested on his own shoulders.

“This is the first time that I’ve really messed up, which is OK,” said Montgomerie. “You’re entitled to a couple of mess-ups along the way.”

Monty was the picture of relaxation most of the week. New York crowds that once razzed him at Bethpage cheered him on, to the point he jokingly said he no longer needed those “Be Nice to Monty” buttons. With Tiger Woods departing after 36 holes, he knew there would be a genuine opportunity to make the most of the opening.

“Well, it helps,” he said of Woods not being around for the weekend. “It helps us all. It helps Phil Mickelson, for God’s sake . . . The one time he has missed the cut, it would be nice to take full advantage of it, sure.”

Montgomerie now will move on to the British Open at Hoylake having been a major runner-up on five occasions, wounded mentally and unsure if opportunity will knock again.

“At my age, I’ve got to think positively,” he said. “I’m 43 next week, and it’s nice I could come back after nine years (Congressional) and contend in this tournament. I look forward to coming back next year and trying another U.S. Open disaster.”

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