He walked up to the microphone and set something down. It wasn't a cocktail. It was two chocolate chip cookies.
“Best part of the day,” Colin Montgomerie said.
So how'd it go?
“I'm just thrilled that I don't have any more bloody hills to climb for one more day,” Montgomerie said, smiling. “I was told that Nebraska was flat. They lied.”
How'd you play?
“Didn't play very well,” Monty said. “I putted well. I had 26 putts. I've got to drive it better. So when I get that ironed out, which is usually my strength, then I'll have 40 putts. Bloody silly game.”
How was the weather?
“The breeze is ... we're thankful for it in many ways because it's very warm. But it's to get warmer, I hear. So it's great. Delighted to be here.”
Any thoughts on playing with Tom Watson?
“Amazing. Good luck to him. Fantastic effort. Good home support for him. I think he's quite close. I think Kansas is the next state down. Flatter, I believe, in Kansas.”
A few more questions and answers and Montgomerie was off to the locker room to finish lunch. Forget something?
“My cookies,” Monty said. “Don't mess with my cookies.”
Anybody seen Colin Montgomerie?
You know, the butt of comedians' jokes. The target of fan cruelty. The guy with the tempestuous relationship with the press tent.
This Monty kept getting huge cheers all day at Omaha Country Club. Then he did a stand-up routine for the media.
Meet Second Chance Monty. Funny. Engaging. Yeah, I'll say it, kind of a cool guy.
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I don't know what happened back in the 1990s. There was an incident or two with the crowd at the 1997 U.S. Open at Congressional. East Coast attitude met Monty attitude. Sparks flew. Then came the jokes.
Whatever. That was then and this is now. Still, Montgomerie's appearance here was a point of curiosity. How would the good-natured folks of Nebraska mix with Monty?
Nebraskans are more likely to wrap their arms around a visitor and make them feel welcome. And so it was with Clean Slate Monty.
Throughout the first round on Thursday, he was showered with applause and support. Just as you would hope. What did Montgomerie ever do to Nebraskans?
OK, there were some cheers for the other guys, too.
It was a good day to watch history stroll down the fairway. Those who got to OCC early were treated to the World Golf Hall of Fame on parade.
Watson, Bernhard Langer and the newest hall inductee, Monty. It was an amazing thing to see. At any minute, you expected a Ryder Cup match to break out.
What the large gallery saw was good, solid U.S. Open golf. You want lightning bolts? Go to the Masters. Here at the corner of tall rough and frayed nerves, it's all about grinding. All about survival.
The trio did just that. Langer birdied his last hole, the ninth, to finish at 2 under, one shot back of the lead. Watson was 1 under most of the day and finished at even.
Monty hung in there, finishing 1 under with his shaky drives and 26 putts. He got into red numbers with a 6-iron to two feet on the par-3 seventh. When the birdie went down, the roar went up.
It was so riveting that the Kearney High School assistant track coach had to remember to write down the score.
“Pretty awesome day,” said Don Clark, who was the scorer for the group. “I've been a Watson fan since I was 14, when he had the duel with Jack Nicklaus at Turnberry (1977). It was pretty surreal. Very special day.”
Clark's son Ryan, a golfer at Kearney High, was the standard bearer in the group. Bill Becker, the golf coach at Kearney, was supposed to be the scorer for the group but traded with Clark because Clark was such a big Watson fan.
It was a neat experience. But Clark won't be writing a book about all of the stories told during the round.
“They really didn't say much to each other,” Clark said. “There wasn't much conversation at all. It was all business. Very competitive.”
And that's the understated part of this event and this tour, the second act of their careers.
The seniors are marketed as a bunch of guys who hang out, tell stories, sign autographs and kiss babies as they stroll down the back nine of their lives.
And to be sure, that's the beauty of it for a guy like Monty. He just turned 50, just got on the tour bus. And he does so with a clean slate. His Ryder Cup legend is engraved and his hall of fame portrait is framed. And now he can kick back, share some jokes and try to make a few bucks on the senior circuit. Which is nice.
But what Monty is finding out, and discovered on that good walk on Thursday, is that this is anything but a ceremonial tour. This is still about blood and guts. Older blood, older guts.
“There's not much 'How's the family?'” Montgomerie said. “It's game on, you know. Very competitive.
“I think I speak for everybody coming out here thinking that this is the back end of one's career. It's not. This is the start of a brand-new career. So it's game on. And that's what I was hoping to feel and hoping to find out here.”
Nobody's sure what to expect from Monty. He's backed off his European schedule, won a Ryder Cup as captain and is a hit in the TV booth.
But it was clear on Thursday that the long, smooth swing and precise shot-making — the things that made him a legend in European golf — were still intact.
“He still has it,” Watson said. “He's going to be a force to contend with.”
Enjoy Second Chance Monty. Don't mess with his cookies.