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Merry Montgomerie turns over new leaf on Champions Tour

| Saturday, June 22, 2013, 11:18 p.m.

Colin Montgomerie apparently will summon his inner Rocco Mediate when he makes his Champions Tour debut Thursday at Fox Chapel Golf Club.

Montgomerie has had a prickly relationship with golf fans, particularly American ones, during his Hall of Fame career. But the Scot plans to showcase a less intense side when he tees it up at the Constellation Senior Players Championship.

“I think that my personality will show through on the (Champions Tour) as opposed to trying to win a major on the PGA Tour,” said Montgomerie, who turns 50 on Sunday. “I really look forward to playing a role with the crowd, getting involved with the crowd and involving them in the game.”

Montgomerie and Mediate, a Greensburg native, are two of the most celebrated newcomers on the Champions Tour this season. Each has embraced the golfing opportunity that comes with turning 50, and the latest chapter in Montgomerie's complicated career will give him a chance to buff his image.

All he has to do is look at Mediate if he wants to connect with fans — and look like he is having fun rather than a colonoscopy on the golf course.

Mediate has long chatted up fans and competitors, and his personality shined through five years ago when he stood up to Tiger Woods on one of golf's biggest stages.

Mediate nearly beat Woods in the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, and the two provided compelling theater on prime-time TV. Woods needed 19 extra holes to finally vanquish Mediate, who made it through a sectional qualifier just to get into the tournament. Mediate basked in the moment instead of wilting, as so many used to do when encountering Woods near the top of the leaderboard in a major, and that only further endeared him to fans.

“He wears his emotions on his sleeves,” Steve Stricker said of Mediate. “He's always been just a classy guy, fun to be around and easy to play with, so I think that's why everyone likes him.”

Montgomerie, by contrast, won't win any popularity contests. He has tangled with fans and fellow competitors alike, and a recent SI.com story chronicling the best-ever golf feuds had Montgomerie at No. 14.

His sparring partners? Everyone.

Montgomerie is still one of the most outspoken players on any tour, and he said his contentious relationship with fans can be traced to his challenging Greg Norman for top player in the world in the pre-Woods era.

“When I got to No. 2 in the world to Greg Norman, I was quite a threat,” Montgomerie said. “Therefore I was a target.”

The image of a dour, snarling Monty, however, is at odds with the player who took time while playing in the BMW International Open in Germany last week to answer questions via conference call.

Montgomerie provided insightful answers and seemed generally appreciative of the opportunity to play on the Champions Tour — and win a major championship, the one thing that has eluded him during his decorated career.

The player who fans derisively called “Mrs. Doubtfire,” after a portly nanny portrayed by Robin Williams in a 1993 movie, showed a self-deprecating side as well. When talking about how good the Champions Tour is due to how much healthier players are, Montgomerie said, “Well, I never really have been fit, but I am as fit as I've ever been.”

Montgomerie said he is “under no illusion” that he will win big immediately on the Champions Tour because of how competitive it is.

Mediate can attest to that.

He won his first start on the circuit in February but still is looking for his second victory. Mediate also has tied for 20th and 36th, respectively, in his first two majors on the tour.

“It's a joke how many good guys and good players there are out there to hang with,” Mediate said. “The players want this tour to stay healthy, and it should be healthy because of all the legends that are out there.”

Scott Brown is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at sbrown@tribweb.com or via Twitter @ ScottBrown_Trib.

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