Thursday, June 15, 2006

Be Nice To Monty

For whatever reason -- most likely his personality -- Colin Montgomerie has never been a favorite of American golf fans.

And that's too bad.

Monty can be a blast. He can also be petulant, rabbit-eared and maddening. But he's great to have around.

Monty's opening-round 69 in the U.S. Open didn't just thrust him atop the leaderboard by lunch time, it put him back in the New York golf consciousness. Remember when Monty came to the U.S. Open at Bethpage four years ago, Golf Digest magazine mounted a 'Be Nice To Monty' campaign that included big red and white buttons for fans to wear.

It amused Monty, who summon a thunderstorm in his mood quicker than most people, and he laughed about it again Thursday. He has been one of his generation's best players, winning the European Tour's Order of Merit eight times. But because he has never won a major championship and struggled to win hearts, some question his eventual place in the Hall of Fame.

Monty has a way to making life difficult on himself by speaking his mind and tromping around the world's great golf courses with his lower lip pushed up like a three-year old's. He says he's softened some now and there's no question the burden of expectations has lessened for Monty, who has been one of the great players in Ryder Cup history.

Because he's Monty, the London tabloids use him like the New York tabloids use Paris Hilton. Monty can do nothing in private and his personal life, which has had its share of bumps, is prime material for the tabs.

When asked about the state of his bachelorhood Thursday, the cheery Monty played along, noting writers from two London tabs had just left the interview room.

"It's all right can ask that question," Monty smiled. "You're not getting an answer but you can ask the question. Socially, I'm very happy, okay?"

Golf-wise, he was even better -- at least for the day.