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Rory McIlroy’s passion can keep him at top for next 5 years: Colin Montgomerie

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With 45 tournament victories around the world, including the 2010 Ryder Cup as captain at Celtic Manor, Scottish golfer Colin Montgomerie is widely regarded as one of the most credible voices in international golf. With two senior majors already in his kitty, Colin has enjoyed a successful run so far this year.

He shared his perspective on the Ryder Cup in Scotland, along with growing the game in India during his recent visit to Delhi Golf Course for a promotional event with Golf Digest India Editor Himanshu Singhal.

GDI: Ryder Cup returned to Scotland last month. It must have been a proud occasion for you to see the event back at the home of golf?

CM: Interestingly, I haven’t played the Ryder Cup in Scotland. I’ve only played the event in England. It’s been 41 years before this year’s edition since the event was held in Scotland at Muirfield. This is the first time in living memory that it was held in Scotland. I’ve played under Scottish captains like Bernard Gallacher and Sam Torrance-so we’ve had a lot of Scottish influence in the Ryder Cup. It is great that it came back to the home of golf this year. We’ve had a great year in Scotland with the Commonwealth Games being such big success. Whatever the result, Gleneagles was the winner.

GDI: You’ve been to India several times in the past. How was your experience in the country during last month’s Hero Cycles Golf Cup different from your earlier visits?

CM: This experience was different because I wasn’t playing in any competition. I was invited by Hero Cycles to promote golf in India. I was very impressed seeing the young, talented Indian children. You hear about the talent in China, Korea and Thailand, but not much about the talent in India. There is a lot of talent in India and if I can promote that, I’ll be happy.

GDI: Your visit last month included an inter-school tournament, a junior clinic and a charity fundraiser. What all did you manage to do this time?

CM: This visit has hopefully been to promote the game of golf; to see talent and try nurture that talent; to see youngsters and give them a dream-a realization that if I can do it, so can they. We need to find more opportunities for young children to play golf in India. There are many private golf clubs in India and it would be great to have more public courses. Schools can benefit from that and we could have regular ‘kids days’ every Wednesday to promote the game. Who knows, there could be six Tiger Woods out here in Delhi, or even better than Tiger in terms of talent, but we don’t know that yet, since we haven’t given these young kids in India the opportunity to play the game. I was given an opportunity at an early age in my golfing world, living in Scotland with 500 courses and a course round every corner. I would like to see more opportunities being given to young Indian kids to really know their true potential.

GDI: You’ve interacted with kids in Asia, Europe, America and Australia as part of your workshops and clinics. How different do you think kids in India are, as compared to talented kids in other parts of the world?

CM: I think the difference lies in work ethic. The work ethic I’ve found in Asia-Korea, Japan, China and India-is: I’m prepared to work very hard for what I have. That’s what I’ve noticed. I know Korean girls think nothing of working 12 hours a day on parts of their golf, swing, fitness, coaching, mental fitness & psychology testing with all their efforts aimed at scoring lower scores and that’s what we should encourage in India as well.

GDI: You’ve now interacted with both amateur and professional golfers in India. Going by your observation, how do you think Indian golf can grow?

CM: I think India has two main sports: Cricket and Hockey. By definition, they are team sports. Golf is a very individual sport and I think it’s up to the schools in India to try and encourage more individual learning and give the special, talented kids the opportunity to grow. That’s what I was given and I would like to see that being encouraged more in schools because that’s where it starts and the base is going to be.

GDI: You’ve played with several Indian golfers in international tournaments. Which Indian golfers do you usually interact with, and do you see a part similar to what you’ve played in your country for Indian pro golfers to grow the game in India?

CM: I’ve played a lot of golf with top Indian golfers like Jeev Milkha Singh and Arjun Atwal. Tennis wasn’t big in Germany before the emergence of Boris Becker and Steffi Graf. Similarly, Wales benefited from Ian Woosnam, Spain benefited from Seve Ballesteros. We need a big Indian iconic golfer as a role model for young Indian golfers, so they feel they want to be like him when they grow up. We have that opportunity back home in Britain, as many kids now want to be like Rory McIlroy, while those in the United States want to be like Tiger Woods. You need a world icon and let’s hope over the next five years, India manages to produce someone of that stature.

GDI: What are the main strengths of Indian junior golfers?

CM: The main strength of Indian junior golfers lies in their work ethic. The fact that the Indian players aren’t frightened to go the extra mile. We need more PGA professionals to be coaching at a higher level in India than we’ve had before. You need that professional help, we all do. My father taught me to a certain level and then I was given over to a PGA professional to continue that nurturing of talent and that’s something that can be done in India. We can encourage more professionals from Europe and USA to coach the intricacies of the game-down to the fine details-to make these Indian players not just good, but great.

GDI: Rory McIlroy was recently voted PGA Tour player of the year and joined Tiger Woods, Greg Norman and Nick Price as the only multiple winners of the Jack Nicklaus Award since it began in 1990. Do you think he’ll be able to maintain his top spot in 2015?

CM: Not just in 2015, if Rory continues with the same passion and drive, he will be the top ranked golfer in the world for the next five years. He’s that good! Tiger Woods would want that top spot back. He wants to come back fitter and ready to play in 2015 with a new coach. He has already split with Sean Foley and will be playing with a new coach. Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, Adam Scott are all keen to reclaim the top spot as well. However, right now, Rory is easily the best of the lot and it’s up to these guys to match up to Rory’s standards. It’s great to have someone very close to us as the top player in the world.

GDI: Augusta Masters is now the only major remaining for Rory to win. Do you think he’ll win the Augusta Masters in 2015?

CM: I do, indeed. Everyone is surprised he hasn’t won that one already. He was four ahead going into the last round and didn’t manage to complete it. I think in April 2015, you could see Rory winning the Masters.

GDI: Tiger has committed to a full season in 2015. Do you see him giving a tough time to Rory next year?

CM: I don’t think Tiger would ever play to just simply go with the flow. I think if Tiger is going just with the flow, you won’t see him playing golf. Tiger enters a tournament to win it. I think you’ll find great competition between Tiger and Rory in 2015. Tiger will come back with a vengeance and the Augusta Masters is one tournament where he would stand a great chance of winning because of his chipping and putting prowess. If he putts well at the Masters, he’d definitely be in contention. The event with a fit Tiger Woods would be interesting!

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