While certain golfers will have an affinity with a particular course, there are few whose fondness matches that of Colin Montgomerie’s love for Royal Troon.
Growing up on South Beach Road, the Montgomerie family home was just five doors away from the famous Ayrshire track, the venue for The 152nd Open, in 2024.
“This is where I started playing,” he said. “This is home.”
A fan favourite for the best part of three decades, ‘Monty’, as he is affectionately known, had the honour of hitting the first tee shot (below) when The Open was last staged at Troon, in 2016, starting a tradition that has been continued by the likes of Darren Clarke at Royal Portrush in 2019 and Matthew Jordan at Royal Liverpool this summer.
Then aged 53, many – including Monty – believed that would be his final Open appearance on a course that means so much to him. A course where his father, James, was once club captain and later secretary.
But with golf’s original major heading back to Troon next year, Montgomerie has added incentive to be included in the star-studded field.
“I’d love to try and play at Troon again,” he revealed on The Open Radio during this year’s Championship.
“I’ll try and qualify for Troon. I did it in ’16, just. I’ll give it a go. I’d regret it if I didn’t. If it all goes well and you get a following wind and the ball runs for you, who knows?
“I’d like to play in this Championship just one more time.”
If Montgomerie achieves his goal it would prove a fitting finale to a simply wonderful career.
A major victory may have famously eluded him but that does not define one of the finest golfers of his generation.
Winning 31 times on the European Tour – now DP World Tour – helped him claim a record seven consecutive European Order of Merit titles. In total, he has achieved an impressive 54 victories as a professional since joining the paid ranks in 1987.
Unbeaten in all 12 of his singles matches at the Ryder Cup, Monty helped Europe to five wins in the biennial competition as a player and one as a captain, at Celtic Manor in 2010.
And it all began just a few yards from his childhood bedroom.
“My father was a keen amateur player and my mother, my brother and myself all started together at the children’s course at Troon,” explained Montgomerie on the Tales of The Open podcast.
‘I remember hitting my first shot at about six years old, and found at a very early age that I could hit it. There was a talent there. There was something there that was a challenge for me and I enjoyed that challenge.
“I enjoyed the challenge of trying to get the ball in the air or hit it in the hole. As a six-year-old I really enjoyed that, and I still do.
“It was those early challenges that got me into the game more than anything.”
Ambling up to the first tee, Monty gave the fans in attendance a first look at his now-famous, seemingly effortless swing – and began his Open career with a birdie, eventually making the cut on his debut.
“It was one of Lee Trevino’s last Opens and he made it count; he never shut up!” laughed Monty. “What a talent and what a guy to play the first two rounds of The Open with.
“To play your first Open with Lee Trevino – I’ll never forget it.”
That was the first of 21 consecutive appearances for Montgomerie at The Open – including three at Royal Troon, in 1997, 2004 and 2016 – his best placing being a runner-up finish to the great Tiger Woods at St Andrews in 2005.
He finished five strokes adrift of the 15-time major winner but was in Woods’ slipstream throughout the weekend, and beat him by a shot when the two were paired together for the third round.
Monty said: “You’re playing at the home of golf, you’re playing with the best golfer of our generation, if not ever, and you’re out there on a Saturday afternoon with him.
“It was just a phenomenal experience, something that I will never, ever forget.
“One of the greatest experiences of my life; to hole a 30-footer at the last for a birdie to beat him on the day was great.”
That was one of five runner-up finishes in majors, alongside three second-place finishes in the US Open and one in the PGA Championship.
No player has been runner-up as many times without achieving victory than Monty.
“Would I change anything? No,” he said. “I’m very proud of the career I’ve had. You’ve got to get lucky in a major. I’ve never stood up and made a winner’s speech and said I was unlucky. It just never quite happened right at the end for me.”
While magnanimous in the assessment of his major career, Monty does admit to letting his mind wander on occasion.
Each major championship is special, but with Montgomerie’s proximity to – and history with – Troon, there is one that stands above all the others for the affable Scot.
“The Open is it,” he said. “It’s the one that everybody wants on a résumé and that’s why it attracts the field that it does.
“Everybody wants to play The Open. Coming from – and belonging to – an Open venue is very unique, and being a very proud honorary member of Royal Troon Golf Club; it means the most to me.
“I only wish that my record in The Open was better than it was.
“If I was ever to win a major in my next life it would be The Open. The Open would be number one.
“It means so much. It means so much to me and always has.”
Monty has provided us with so many great moments over the years – but an ovation on the 18th green at Troon in 2024 might just top the lot.