COLIN Montgomerie’s best performance for four seasons on the European Tour followed a first lesson from Capital coach Colin Brooks.
The eight-time European Tour No. 1 returned to form by tying for sixth spot behind Paul Lawrie in the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles on Sunday.
After a third-round 69, he admitted feeling more encouraged than he has for a long time on a golf course, saying: “That was the best golf I’ve played in a number of years.”
The Evening News can reveal that part of the credit for Monty’s performance in Perthshire should go to Brooks, who is based at the Braid Hills Golf Centre. He worked with the 2010 Ryder Cup captain for the first time the week before the Gleneagles event and was delighted to see his input produce an instant result.
“Colin contacted me,” said Brooks. “That was in July but, due to me being on holiday and him having some business commitments, we didn’t get together until the week before Gleneagles.”
It wasn’t the first time their paths had crossed. Far from it, in fact. Brooks, a Glencorse member at the time, preceded Monty, the 1987 winner, as the Scottish Amateur champion and they played foursomes together for their country.
“Apart from saying ‘hello’ a couple of times over the years we’d never really had a chance to catch up so at first we just chatted,” added Brooks.
“I knew Colin’s game well from our amateur days and for a long time it hadn’t really changed all that much, to be honest. However, I felt that recently he had started to move away from the swing that had made him so successful.
“It had two or three things that were maybe unconventional, but they worked as he was the premier ball-striker in Europe for a long time.
“It was a case of trying to get him back to what he used to do and I suggested a few things that he seemed to like.
“This wasn’t a case of trying to reinvent the wheel. It was about trying to get him back to what he used to do very well and the feedback I got straight away was good.”
Following their initial session, Brooks then spent half an hour with Monty on the range at Gleneagles before his first round last Thursday.
What followed over the next four days proved every bit as satisfying for the coach as it undoubtedly did for the pupil.
“It was a dream start,” admitted Brooks, a two-time Northern Open champion who had a brief spell on the European Tour before launching his coaching career.
“He had his best finish in four years so something must have worked for him. One of the things I said was that he should look back at some of his good memories and, let’s face it, he has an abundance of them.
“Coming down the stretch at Gleneagles, he looked like the old Monty and his stats proved very interesting reading indeed.
“He was first in fairways hit and sixth in greens hit – they used to be his strengths.
“You don’t always get that instant wham-bam. Sometimes it can take a few months to see someone making progress.”
Brooks has worked with Lloyd Saltman for a number of years and also looks after a crop of amateur aces, including Brian Soutar, the South African Amateur title-holder, and Scottish Boys’ champion Craig Howie.
“It is now up to Colin how much he wants to work with me, but he is a very independent guy and not someone you need to stand over all the time,” he said. “Two things that excited me straight away when he first got in touch, though, were that he’s injury-free and is still very ambitious at the age of 49.
“He still has his eyes on one more European Tour victory – he certainly wasn’t playing for second place at Gleneagles.”
LLOYD Saltman has been tipped to make an instant impact on the European Tour due to the fact he has the “big game” required for the long courses on the circuit.
The 25-year-old, who secured his card by finishing in a tie for 11th in last week’s Qualifying School in Spain, is wasting no time launching his new career, having headed to Durban along with his older brother, Elliot, for the South African Open starting tomorrow.
Saltman’s success in Girona delighted his long-time coach, Colin Brooks, who reckons the former Open Silver Medal winner deserves enormous praise for the patience he showed as it took him longer to earn his step up to the top tier than the likes of Rory McIlroy, Rhys Davies, David Horsey and John Parry, four of his Walker Cup team-mates in 2007.
They’ve all won on the European Tour and Brooks believes Saltman has all the attributes to make his presence felt on leaderboards, too.
“I’m delighted for Lloyd because he has had to be patient for the past couple of years. We’ve always known that he had the talent, but, over the past two or three years, he has lost a bit of confidence,” said Brooks, who is based at the Braid Hills Golf Centre in Edinburgh.
“There’s never been an issue with his swing; we’ve always had a handle on that. But he lost confidence with his wedge play in particular, and when you are struggling a bit your putting can be effected as well. Due to the fact he has got a high profile, it hasn’t been easy for him. People were always asking him – me as well – what had gone wrong, what was the difference to a few years ago.
“He’s a great kid, though. He has never let his head go down. He took all that very well and stayed positive, which isn’t really a Scottish trait.
“He kept his chin up, stuck with his principles and didn’t look to change his swing. He stayed with the game that made him one of the best amateurs in the world in the first place.”
Saltman’s success at PGA Golf de Catalunya, where he shot in the 60s in four of the six rounds, capped a strong finish to his season, the Archerfield Links player having headed into the Qualifying School process knowing he had a decent Challenge Tour card to fall back on.
“We sat down up at the Braids one day when he was a bit down and reset his goals for the last couple months of the year. He was going nowhere for a spell, but the talk we had that day helped get him motivated again for the Tour School and he had a couple of top tens on the Challenge Tour after that,” added Brooks.
“I can really see him kicking on from here. This might sound silly, but I think it is better this has happened now than a couple of years ago. He’ll appreciate this chance more now – he won’t take it for granted.
“It’s exciting to think about watching him on the European Tour as he has got a big game.At the Tour School he was hitting it past Emanuele Canonica. That’s what is exciting for me.
“He has the big game for these big Tour-style courses. That’s what I’m looking forward to and, if he plays to his ability, I think he can contend to win on the main Tour.”
While Saltman was working with Mark Roe on his short game for a spell, he has remained loyal, admirably so, to Brooks.
“It’s a real thrill to me (to see Saltman win his card]. It’s one thing starting to work with a guy like Andrew Coltart and helping him regain his Tour card, as I did a couple of years ago, but this is totally different.
“You are talking about taking a 13-year-old with an eight handicap to a Tour player – that’s a different kind of feeling altogether,” he admitted.
THE growing reputation of an Edinburgh-based golf coach has earned him another pupil – nearly 5000 miles away!
Jyoti Randhawa, one of India’s top professionals, has started working with Colin Brooks after the former Scottish champion was recommended to him by a rich sponsor.
“It’s an interesting one, to say the least,” admitted Brooks, who has established himself as one of Scotland’s leading coaches from his base at the Braid Hills Golf Centre.
“It all came about after I did a bit of coaching with one of Jyoti’s sponsors up at the Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews last October.
“He liked the way I went about my coaching and, as Jyoti didn’t have a coach and was struggling a bit with his game, he suggested that we should get together.”
Easier said than done when you’re talking about someone who lives in New Delhi and the other in Edinburgh. So where did they meet?
“It was Las Vegas actually,” explains Brooks. “Jyoti and his sponsor were having a company day there, so he flew me over and we worked together for a couple of days.
“Jyoti also liked the things I was saying and we agreed then to start working together. I went out to Dubai when the Desert Classic was being played there and, as the season progresses, we will arrange to meet up now and again at tournaments on the European Tour.”
So far, the advice Brooks is giving appears to be paying off for Randhawa, who finished fifth in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth last season on his way to claiming 67th position on the European Tour Order of Merit.
In four events this year, he’s made the cut every time, picking up more than 100,000 Euros as he tied for second in the Malaysian Open in Kuala Lumpur last weekend.
“It’s certainly been a case of so far, so good and, if we continue working together, then I believe that Jyoti sets up base in the London area from around mid-May, so that would make it easier for us to meet up,” said Brooks.
“Jyoti’s a very good player, as he showed by finishing in the top 70 in Europe last season, and he’s not someone who wants to have a coach there 24/7, so we will see how it goes.”
The link up means that Brooks is now working with two European Tour players at the moment, having become Andrew Coltart’s coach after the former Ryder Cup man set up home in Edinburgh.
“I was delighted for Andrew when he won back his European Tour card for the current season,” added Brooks, who preceded Colin Montgomerie as the Scottish Amateur champion in 1986.
“I think he’s got his swing back to where it was when he was being very successful on the European Tour (Coltart faced Tiger Woods in the singles in the 1999 Ryder Cup at Brookline]. He knows that he’s never going to be one of the longest hitters in the world – his strengths are accuracy, consistency and course management. And, having recorded his first top ten in three years, I believe, in Qatar a few weeks ago, his confidence has clearly been given a huge boost and, hopefully, he can go on and retain his card.”
As well as Randhawa and Coltart, Brooks is still coaching Lloyd Saltman, while he’s also kept busy in his role as one of the Scottish Golf Union’s Academy coaches.
“This is a big year for Lloyd, who must be frustrated to see players he competed against as an amateur now doing well on the European Tour,” said the former Glencorse man.
“He’s just got to bide his time because he’s not doing anything different now to when he was making a name for himself a couple years back.
“Lloyd has always been a confidence player – he could beat anyone in the world when he’s feeling confident – and, hopefully, that will return this season.”