EDMOND — No one was hotter than Colin Montgomerie during the first round of the U.S. Senior Open on Thursday at Oak Tree National, but the Hall of Famer said how players handle the searing Oklahoma heat will play a key role in who wins the tournament.
“Having just turned 51 I’m still used to four-day events (on the PGA Tour), which is more of a marathon,” Montgomerie said. “It’s warm but just wait until Sunday. It comes down to hydration and concentration. That’s what it is. If you don’t hydrate you’re going to lose concentration so that’s very important.”
Montgomerie, who is from Scotland, said he usually plays well in the heat dating back to his days on the Asian Tour when he played in Singapore, Malaysia and Kuala Lumpur. He also referenced the 1994 U.S. Open, when he lost in a playoff to Ernie Els at Oakmont, a Pittsburgh suburb that experienced a record heat wave.
“Unfortunately, I was 20 years younger but at the same time, I don’t mind it,” Montgomerie said. “You get around. It’s part of the job. The rewards are so great at the end that, believe me, you keep going. You look at the end result, the rewards available at the end, a championship.”
The Ryder Cup legend shot one of his better rounds of the year after play was delayed 1 hour, 15 minutes by an early-morning thunderstorm.
Starting his round on No. 10, Montgomerie hit 16 greens in regulation and needed only 27 putts to record eight birdies to offset two bogeys.
Montgomerie was even par after four holes, but after play resumed he started heating up with birdies on Nos. 14, 15 and 16, chipping in from the fringe on 16.
“That really got my round going to get to 3-under at the turn,” Montgomerie said.
Montgomerie missed a couple of makeable birdie putts but finally got to 4-under with a birdie on No. 3 only to fall back to 3-under with a bogey on No. 5.
“I did well just to make bogey there because I hit a terrible drive,” Montgomerie said. “After that I played well coming in, very well … It was just a good, solid round of golf.”
Montgomerie posted birdies on Nos. 6, 7 and 8 to get to 6-under to own a 1-shot lead over Marco Dawson.
“It’s only one round,” Montgomerie said. “You can lose it the first day but you can’t win it (the first day). It’s going to be grueling the next three days. This will be our coolest day and it was still very hot.”
To remain near the top of the leaderboard, Montgomerie said he’ll have to overcome the heat when he tees off at 1:52 p.m., the hottest time of the day.
“It’s a matter of being patient, trying to play somewhere near the way I did today,” Montgomerie said. “It will be difficult, I’m not denying that. Because of the heat it will be a struggle.”
Montgomerie, 51, has played well all year on the Champions Tour. He’s posted top-10 finishes in eight of the 10 events he’s entered. He’s third in scoring average, fourth on the money list (roughly $1 million).
Montgomerie is attempting to join Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Hale Irwin and Roger Chapman as the only players to win the Senior PGA and U.S. Senior Open the same year.
“It’s going to be near 100 (degrees) the next three days so concentration levels will be difficult for everybody, not just myself,” Montgomerie said. “I look forward to the challenge of trying to compete against the rest of the field and the golf course, which is superb.”