EDMOND, Okla. – Having finally broken through for his first
victory in the U.S. at the Senior PGA Championship in May, Colin Montgomerie
has discovered a new confidence heading into this week's U.S. Senior Open at
Oak Tree National.
The Scotsman, who won a record 31 times and eight Orders of
Merit on the European Tour, weathered years of disappointment in America,
including several chances to win major championships. Montgomerie, 51, finished
second in major championships five times, including a runner-up finish in three
U.S. Opens: 1994, '97 and 2006. In all, he competed in 138 PGA Tour events
without a victory.
Montgomerie was finally able to slay some demons, however,
when he held off Bernhard Langer and Tom Watson at Harbor Shores to capture the
"There is winning and there is just scraping home by a
couple of bogeys in the last couple of holes to win by one sort of thing,"
Montgomerie said. "No, it wasn't like that. It really felt like it was
when I was playing in the '90s when I was No. 2 in the world. It was exciting
to feel that I was playing that way again and I can still play that way
Montgomerie's record in the U.S. Open includes not only three
silver medals, but six other top-25 finishes. So he knows his game is built for
the kind of test he faces this week at Oak Tree National. As added incentive,
only four men have won the Senior PGA and the U.S. Senior Open in the same
year: Jack Nicklaus, Hale Irwin, Gary Player and Roger Chapman. All but Chapman
are in the World Golf Hall of Fame.
So is Montgomerie, who was inducted in 2013.
Senior Open: Volunteer Makes Annual Impact
Senior Open: Wednesday Photos
"You spring out some names there and obviously to win
major championships is very difficult. It doesn't matter whether you're senior
or a junior at the same time. So I just look forward to trying to emulate those
great champions if possible," said Montgomerie, who finished tied for 30th
in his U.S. Senior Open debut at Omaha (Neb.) Country Club last year. "But
at the same time it's difficult. And it should be difficult. I'm looking
forward to the difficulty of it. This is a difficult golf course against
difficult competition in difficult conditions."
Oak Tree Member
Walcher First off the Tee
Rocky Walcher, 52, lives in Oklahoma City and plays out of
Oak Tree National. And on Thursday morning at 7:15, he will strike the first
tee shot of the championship off hole No 1.
“It’s an honor to be here,” said Walcher on Wednesday as he
hit some final practice shots. “I rejoined here about three years ago and everyone’s
been nice to me here for many, many years. I will try to represent them well.”
Walcher is an Oklahoma native, having grown up in Carnegie
and played at Southwestern Oklahoma State. After college, he played on the
Web.com Tour for more than 10 years, winning once, and played two years on the
PGA Tour, in 1994 and 2001. This is his first U.S. Senior Open; he qualified by
shooting 68 in a sectional at Aledo, Texas on June 23.
“As soon as I found out they were having the Senior Open
here, it was a goal of mine to get here,” said Walcher, who works four days a
week at Edward Jones in Woodward and tries to play three times a week .”I tried
to qualify for this at age 50 and 51. I work a real job, so it’s hard, but I
feel like I’ve been playing a little bit better this summer.”
Along with his years of tour experience, Walcher won the
Oklahoma Open in 2004 and 2007. But he expects a bit of nerves on the first tee
Thursday morning, when he begins play with Ron Vlosich and amateur Bryan Norton.
“I’m going to try to shake it off and get through it,” he
said. “I’m trying not to have any expectations. In the old days, I would be
putting a lot of pressure on myself to play good, but I’m just going to take it
as it comes. I’ve played out here so many times, I know what to do. I just have
to do it.”
Another thing Walcher has to do is come up with tickets for
family and friends. When asked if he had a large family, he chuckled.
“It’s growing all the time,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of
support, some of it from people I haven’t seen in a long time. But it’s a good
thing. We needed to talk anyway.”
It’s always nice to celebrate a birthday by playing golf on
your home course. That’s exactly what Scott Verplank is doing at Oak Tree
National this week, except this birthday is one that he will remember a little
more than others. Verplank, a five-time PGA Tour winner who makes his home here,
turned 50 on Wednesdaywhich makes him old enough to play in his first U.S.
Senior Open on Thursday.
For professional golfers, turning 50 is also the minimum age
to play on the Champions Tour. Verplank, who in addition to living at Oak Tree
won the 1984 U.S. Amateur here, held out to the very end, competing in last
week’s Greenbrier Classic on the PGA Tour. With the turning of the calendar,
however, comes reality, and Verplank received another reminder this week that
he is moving on to the next chapter of his life and career.
“Last night I was sitting in my office opening mail because
I had been gone all day, and there's a plain-looking envelope, and I open it up
and it's an AARP membership application, and I went, oh, my gosh,” he said on
Tuesday. “I kind of joke about that, but I was like, well, I guess it's real.”
Dave Shedloski is an
Ohio-based freelance writer whose work has appeared previously on USGA
websites. Ron Driscoll and Scott Lipsky of the USGA