Ever since the rest of Europe was brought into the Ryder Cup fold, several of its players have served as lightning rods for American fans. Seve Ballesteros was the original, of course, but other Cup antagonists have included Nick Faldo, Sergio Garcia, Jesper Parnavik, Ian Poulter, and, now, apparently, Rory McIlroy. It’s curious to note that when playing on their own on the American PGA tour , most of these guys are (or were) at worst respected, and in many cases very well-liked. Sergio’s win at this year’s Byron Nelson Classic was quite popular, and McIlroy, when he is not puffing his chest in response to slights perceived or otherwise, is generally well received by US spectators.
There was one man, however, who brought out disdain from us Yanks regardless of circumstance. I’m speaking, of course, of one Colin Montgomerie.
Monty never won an event on US soil until he got to the Champions Tour, although he came agonizingly close in a couple of US Opens (both times bested by Ernie Els) as well as in the 1995 PGA, when Steve Elkington beat him in a playoff. But he was a beast in Europe, having won the Order of Merit a record 8 times, and was absolute kryptonite in the Ryder Cup, posting a 20-win, -9-loss, -7-tie record, and was never beaten in a singles match. He also captained the European team to a win in the 2010 cup at Celtic Manor in Wales.
But what was it about Monty that brought out the wrath of American golf followers? Some pointed to his doughy physique. Others mentioned his facial expression, which seemed to be in a permanent cross state of despair and disgust. He earned the moniker Mrs. Doubtfire as a result of this.
But primarily – Monty suffered from what we call “rabbit ears.” It’s only a slight exaggeration to state that he could stand on the 16th tee at Firestone and hear a mosquito land on the green some 625 yards away.
I witnessed this phenomena at the 1997 PGA Championship at Winged Foot, where Monty was in a group with Greg Norman and Tom Lehman. By the second hole, Monty had already berated the fairway marshal for “partisan behavior” – the poor guy applauded after Lehman hit a nice approach shot – and was bemoaning the lie he had in the rough, circling his ball while clomping his feet like a Budweiser Clydesdale. He finally was ready to address the shot when suddenly he glared skyward. A jet plane was flying overhead. Apparently, someone forgot to explain to Monty that there are 3 major airports in the New York city metropolitan area.
In any event, once Monty’s Achilles heel became evident, American fans were merciless. He was heckled so badly in his singles match against Payne Stewart at the 1999 Ryder Cup that Stewart conceded the point to Colin.
In advance of the 2002 US Open at Bethpage, Golf Digest mounted a “Be Nice to Monty” campaign, passing out some 25,000 buttons to a raucous New York crowd. Most of them found their way into trash bins.
My first visit to Scotland was in 2001, which happened to be the year that David Duval won the Open. While staying at a b&b in Dornoch, my host commented that he was quite taken by Duval’s acceptance speech, as it didn’t fit his perception of the champion. Now, in the proper setting, Monty can be surprisingly charming as an interviewee. I tried to point this out to my host; however, he was having none of it. “Ah, he’s a spoiled brat, that Monty!” he replied. “He can piss off!”
Poor Monty – even in his own country, he gets crapped upon.
On Twitter, there’s a poster whose handle is Darth Monty, who assumes a comic Monty persona. Sample tweets
“Just 15 minutes until the greatest show on earth. The #RyderCup accompanied by my commentary. All credit to me.”
“Congratulations USA on your #RyderCup win, a great feeling. I should know – I’ve won a shit load of them. All credit to you.”
By the way, Darth Monty has over 16 thousand followers.
Montgomerie has been enjoying a successful campaign on the Champions Tour, and for the most part, the spectators who attend those events have treated him kindly. Maybe both he and we have mellowed.
Or maybe it’s just a loss of hearing.