Coast wind is Montgomerie’s gentle breeze

SAUCIER, Miss. — Colin Montgomerie, the spectacularly accomplished Scottish golfer, was preparing to chip to the second green, his 11th of the day, at Fallen Oak on a windy, sun-kissed Friday afternoon. And then something — something big and blue, caught his eye.

It was a sheriff’s deputy, walking in Montgomerie’s line of sight when he shouldn’t have been.

“He had a gun, a big gun,” Montgomerie later said. “I presumed it was loaded.”

Montgomerie, four shots under par at the time, had an important shot to hit.

“So I asked him politely, very politely, mind you, move,” Montgomerie told reporters, who were by now chuckling.

Montgomerie started laughing himself.

“There were three (deputies) and they all had guns,” Montgomerie said. “I’m not used to three guys with guns following me around. Where I come from, only our SWAT teams have guns. Police don’t have guns unless something bad is happening.

“So believe me, I was polite, so very polite.”

Montgomerie chipped up, made his par and went on to shoot a 5-under par 67 to share the lead after the first round of the Champions Tour’s Gulf Resorts Classic presented by C Spire.

Joe Durant also shot 67, an exceptional score on a blustery, cool day on a difficult golf course.

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For Montgomerie, who learned to play golf in Scottish gales, Friday’s 20-mph gusts “were a mere breeze.”

His playing partners in the most popular group of the day might have disagreed. Crowd favorite Fred Couples shot 71. Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez, who has won two of the three Champions Tour events he has entered, struggled to a 76.

“Anything under par was excellent today,” Montgomerie said. “This is a very, very good golf course, one of the best we play. Just fantastic. Funny, I had never heard of it.”

Montgomerie laughed again. “But it’s kind of hidden out here in the woods, wouldn’t you say,” he said in his clipped accent. “I mean, you don’t just happen to get on Highway 15 and get here. Tens of thousands of people drive past a few miles away on I-10 every day and never know they are passing within a few miles of such a great course.”

Montgomerie was clearly enjoying himself in the interview tent, just as he had earlier on the golf course. Montgomerie, at 51, is a much more likeable laddie than he was when he was ranked as high as No. 2 in the world and won the European Order of Merit a record seven consecutive times.

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There was a time when American crowds — and some across the Atlantic Ocean — didn’t much care for Montgomerie, and the feeling was mutual.

The man known as “Monty” said as much.

“You’re right, I wasn’t always tit-for-tat with the crowds, nor they to me,” Montgomerie said.

Montgomerie often seemed thin-skinned, with a huge set of rabbit ears. American crowds often heckled him. Sometimes, he barked back.

Friday’s crowd embraced him. He seemed to embrace the Mississippians back.

“I was having fun,” he later said. “I am really looking forward to playing the next two rounds. I am looking forward to playing more often on this tour.”

So, Montgomerie, was asked, when did his attitude toward fans — and fans’ attitude toward him — change?

“I think it began a few years ago,” he said.

And which side gave first: he or the fans?

“Probably a bit of both,” he said, pausing with a sheepish smile. “Mainly me.”

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