By Bernie McGuire in Abu Dhabi.
Colin Montgomerie is fearing that new technology could see this year’s 150th Open Championship be the last to be played on the Old Course at St. Andrews.
Monty, like so many ‘elder’ fellow tour pros, believe big-hitters like Bryson DeChambeau, and given calm conditions that may prevail at the Home of Golf, could turn the famous venue into one big birdie feast.
This year’s Open Championship will be the first at St. Andrews for DeChambeau and company since 2015 when American Zach Johnson won a Monday play-off after heavy rain had forced play into an extra day.
The four-round Old Course record in an Open stands at 19-under when Tiger Woods avoided all bunkers over the four rounds to win also by a ‘modern era’ eight shots.
Monty, competing in this week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, can see DeChambeau easily breaking that mark.
He said: “Can you imagine what will happen if the weather is good and there’s little wind?’
“It hardly bears thinking about. Bryson will stand up there and think six or seven holes on the course are driveable. The par-five fifth hole will be a joke, with a flick of a wedge for Bryson’s second shot.
“As for the par-four 18th, remember all the excitement back in the day when Jack Nicklaus became the first man to drive the green? They were hitting it with 3-woods back when I finished second to Tiger in 2005 and this year they will be hitting it with irons.
“That would be really sad if that happens but that’s the way I see it heading.”
Monty remarkably played in 20 Open’s in a row from making his debut as a 27-year-old in 1990 before playing a last in 2016, and with his best finish, as he mentioned, being runner-up a distant five shots behind Woods in 2005.
Many have been sounding the warning bells for the Old Course with former Open Champion Sandy Lyle, having played a practice round in July 2020, saying what Bryson could do to the Old Course was unimaginable in his day.
Lyle said: “I was pretty proud of myself at the height of my career when I could hit it close to 300-yards off the tee but the only time I could hit a drive around 350-yards like Bryson would be to a downhill fairway and with a 60 mph wind behind me.”
Monty, now aged 58 and contesting a first DP World Tour event in three years, agrees with his fellow Scot.
“There is no better thrill in golf than teeing-up on the Old Course at St. Andrews. It’s one of the most sought-after feelings in golf and it’s the same for people just visiting St. Andrews as they want to experience that thrill of gazing out on the course from the R and A Club, walk the Swilcan Bridge and just soak it all in
“But think about Bryson at the first hole, where the burn in front of the green is 340 yards from the tee,” he said. “For Bryson, that’s doable. Imagine him taking that on and driving the green?
“That would be the end for sure. There’d be no way back from that.”
Though there was no way back for Monty when checking into his Abu Dhabi hotel earlier this week, with long-time good friend Lee Westwood having a quiet chuckle to himself when a cash machine swallowed up Monty’s credit card.
Monty is among 11 Scots contesting this week’s near €7 million Rolex Series event being played for the first time in 17-years on the Yas Links course, designed by American Kyle Phillips who designed Kingsbarns Links, with the Abu Dhabi course very similar, aside from the weather, to its Fife cousin.