Golfers prove to be creatures of habit, superstitions

As professional golfers who happen to be multimillionaires, Colin Montgomerie and Tom Watson keep coins in their pockets at all times for several reasons. Watson says he keeps the coins because he’s a creature of habit. Montgomerie, the defending U.S. Senior Open champion, says he keeps his coin because he is very superstitious.

Baseball players are arguably the most superstitious professional athletes. But golfers are right there with them.

Montgomerie may be the most superstitious, at least on the Champions Tour.

“If I went into the superstitions of golfers and myself, we’d be here all day,” the 52-year-old Scotsman said. “I usually mark the ball with a 10-pence coin, a British 10-pence coin, queen head up. If I continued, we’d lose (microphone) battery power, OK?

“My coin always goes in my back pocket to avoid getting in the way of the tees. Oh, no, it’s madness. I think I speak for them all that we’re all a little bit that way. The superstitions of what we do is quite bizarre, yeah.”

Montgomerie joked that he doesn’t much care if he uses the same 10-pence coin, which equals about 16 cents, although he rarely misplaces it.

“I don’t lose it every week,” he said. “I can’t afford that.”

Fred Funk reportedly uses a coin to mark his ball and always has the head of the U.S. president stamped on the coin facing toward the hole, as if the dead president is helping Funk line up the putt.

One fairly common superstition on the Champions Tour is to keep several coins in the front pockets. Joe Durant marks his ball with larger coins the farther away he is from the hole and smaller coins for closer putts. Watson said he’s not very superstitious, but for as long as he’s been playing he’s kept exactly three coins in a front pocket.

“I keep three coins in my pocket because I don’t want to go searching for one coin and a bunch of tees in my pocket,” Watson said. “That’s my superstition, three coins, three different sizes – a quarter, a nickel and a penny, or a quarter, a dime and a penny. It doesn’t really matter, but it’s three different sizes so I can feel them in my pocket.”

Montgomerie uses only one coin, but that’s not his only superstition. Battery power be damned because Monty happily continued the rundown on his psychological peculiarities.

“My left sock goes on first and right sock goes on last,” he said. “And I never, ever use any tee that’s not white because yellow and red mark water hazards. I know white’s out of bounds, but I can usually keep it within the boundary of the course.”

Indelible fan

Many people wear tattoos of their favorite rock band or pro sports team. But Scott Whittaker, a huge golf fan, put logos of Augusta National and Pebble Beach Golf Links on his legs.

“I’m a big Jack Nicklaus fan, and when he won the Masters at Augusta in 1986, I got the tattoo on (the side of) my lower leg,” said Whittaker, 59, of Reno. “I got the Pebble Beach tatt around the same time.”

Scott Whittaker, a huge golf fan, put logos of Augusta National and Pebble Beach Golf Links on his legs.

Whittaker said he’s played Pebble Beach and, like 99.9 percent of all golfers, would love to play Augusta National.

“One tattoo is reality, and the other is fantasy,” he said.

Whittaker could be mistaken for Corey Pavin’s twin brother. Whittaker took a picture with the current Champions Tour player 20 years ago at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am when each sported a thick, dark mustache. Whittaker saw Pavin again Wednesday during a practice round and took another photo with him. Neither looked much older than in the first shot. But both have ditched the mustache.

Quiet, please!

Galleries during Thursday’s first round were boisterous after great shots and quiet and respectful of the players’ concentration.

But a small plane kept circling low over the course in the morning, distracting several players.

And while Funk, Rocco Mediate and John Cook were on the fifth tee, a truck driver on Watt Avenue felt the need to wail on his horn for longer than seemed necessary.

Luckily, none of the players was taking a backswing at the time.

Mark Billingsley,, @editorwriter001.

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