Shaw Charity leader Colin Montgomerie plays his way to fan favourite

WATCH ABOVE: Colin Montgomerie chats with Scott Fee and Amber Schinkel at the Shaw Charity Classic

CALGARY – For most of his career, as Colin Montgomerie chased an elusive victory in a major championship, the Scot was regarded by North American fans as a dour whiner who pouted over all of his failings. But in Calgary during the first round of the Shaw Charity Classic, he was welcomed as one of golf’s legends, shooting an eight-under par 62 to lead the Champions Tour tournament.

Monty, as he is known in golf circles, was paired in a feature group alongside defending champion Fred Couples, and Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez. In a group of golf legends that regularly outdrove him, Montgomerie was the one who went low, carding nine birdies against a single bogey.

“A wee wobble,” is how Montgomerie characterized his one hiccup, a bogey on the twelfth hole.

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Montgomerie, who won 31 times on the European Tour, had regular negative encounters with American fans at golf’s majors and during the Ryder Cup throughout his career. Perhaps to his detriment, Montgomerie would often fire back, complaining to fans and losing his temper over a poor shot. His biggest struggle came at the 1999 Ryder Cup, when American fans took to a nasty sport that one writer characterized as “Monty baiting,” and calling the golfer by his unbecoming nickname, “Mrs. Doubtfire.”

“Like seal clubbing without the moral dilemma,” the writer explained.

That’s changed since he joined the over-50 set, and Montgomerie said that’s because of a change in attitude on his part.

“It is very different since I’ve joined the Champions Tour,” he said. “I’ve engaged with the fans and they’ve seen that and engaged back. It has worked both ways.”

Still, he wasn’t sure it would work.

“Yes it has surprised me in a very positive way,” he said, smiling, obviously pleased that the comparisons to a cross-dressing movie character have diminished.

The fans treated him like the star he is at Canyon Meadows Golf and Country Club. They didn’t cheer as hard as they did for Couples, but it was a close second, especially after Montgomerie slid a short birdie putt in on 18.

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Even Couples seemed impressed by Montgomerie’s showing.

“Monty played phenomenal golf,” Couples said. “I think he made maybe one little mistake and made a long par putt, and then the rest of them were pretty easy.”

For Montgomerie’s part, he almost downplayed one of the best rounds witnessed in three years of the Shaw Charity Classic.

“All in all, I got the most out of the round,” he said. “I’m not one of these guys who says it should have been 59. My God, I got the most out of that. That was the lowest it could have been.”

It had to be low, as Montgomerie is followed closely by the likes of Australian Peter Senior, who is one shot back at seven-under, as well as a group led by Champions Tour rookie Scott McCarron and former Calgarian Stephen Ames, who both shot five-under par.

“It is only the first round, but it is a start and it is a good start,” Montgomerie said. “The standard here is fantastic. There are a number of guys here who are PGA Tour approved.”

As for whether Montgomerie’s success leads to any sort of pressure on his pursuers, he isn’t sure. His career, after all, is defined by his failures—runner-up finishes in the U.S. Open (three times), the British Open (once) and the PGA Championship (once).

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Still, it can’t hurt being in the lead, he admitted.

“I suppose that’s the idea—to get your name on the leaderboard and put the others under pressure if my name means that or not,” he said.

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