LOCH LOMOND // There can be four seasons in one day infiltrating Scotland in these rangy days of summer. Sunshine quickly turns to bright and breezy moments before subsiding to let in damp, dank and sullen images. There are usually as many moods sweeping over Colin Montgomerie during any four days of a golf tournament. At lunchtime yesterday, Loch Lomond, the somewhat epic scene of this week's Barclays Scottish Open, was more like Lake Placid.
As tranquillity glazed over the Loch, a similar weather front defined Montgomerie. The Scotsman is lugging around heartily the moniker of European Ryder Cup captain and a well-etched portrait as his country's most protruding player in modern times. "I've noticed that being captain of the Ryder Cup team, well, there is more behind the scenes than I could give credit for, an awful lot behind the scenes," said Montgomerie.
It is probably better to encounter this sometimes combustible character on days like yesterday, the day before competition begins; a day when he smiles, is self-effacing and seems at one with life. Montgomerie won the Scottish Open a decade ago, but does not refer to video footage of his most decorated times, days when he won eight Order of Merits as Europe's most consistent player, because "there's always a weight issue, there's never a swing or technical issue, there's a weight issue, so, my goodness, I don't watch videos".
Montgomerie hardly cuts a desolate figure despite being without a top-10 finish in Europe over the past year. The impending Scottish Open and British Open would seem to fit as snugly into his itinerary as the fade does his swing. Montgomerie loves Loch Lomond so much he was last year married in its Rossdhu House. The Open is being hosted by Turnberry in Ayrshire. Montgomerie once shot 29 on the closing nine holes at Turnberry, figures that helped in persuading him to turn professional. "I feel very comfortable at Turnberry."
The role of European captain is one for a mature man, a leader of men, but at the age of 46, "Monty" remains a youngish chairperson. His playing career may slowly be heading into the taller grass, but he possesses enough quality to remain a viable threat. The South African Gary Player, a multiple major winner, however, recalled earlier this week his failure at the US Open at Winged Foot in 2006 when a par on the 72nd hole would have won the trophy. He ran up a double bogey six.
Player said it was probably Mongomerie's last chance to win a major before adding the caveat that "in golf, you have to be careful what you say". Montgomerie is a figure at a type of career crossroads. This is a big year for him, but next year will be bigger when Europe attempt to regain the Ryder Cup from the US in Wales. Being named Ryder Cup captain once sounded a death knell on a playing career, almost like a golfing peerage for one's contribution to the European Tour when one thinks of Tony Jacklin, Bernard Gallacher or even Seve Ballesteros.
Montgomerie has set fresh career goals such as finalising a place at the Dubai World Championship in November by finishing in the Tour's top 60. "I can't honestly say you'd stay at your peak, or else Muhammad Ali would still be world boxing champion. You can't stay at the top indefinitely," said Montgomerie. "But there have been people who have won on this tour older than me, and I still think there are a few wins in there somewhere.
"I still feel capable of winning at 46, whether it this week or down the road next week." It is never too late to win, but there will be widespread bedlam in Scotland if Montgomerie manages to get rid his angst in Ayrshire. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org