The Colin Montgomerie Cheating Allegation Explained

Some believe Colin Montgomerie cheated at a 2005 tournament

Did Colin Montgomerie cheat at the 2005 Indonesian Open? Some say yes. The European Tour and Monty say no — although Monty did admit to making a mistake, and apologized for it.

That wasn't enough for some of his peers, however. Some — most notably, Sandy Lyle — in later years outright called Montgomerie a cheater because of the incident. In the wake of Montgomerie's election to the World Golf Hall of Fame (announced on Dec. 18, 2012), the irascible Scottish golf journalist John Huggan made his thoughts about Monty perfectly clear on Twitter:

(Related: The Vijay Singh cheating incident explained)

The cheating allegations, Monty's frequently sour disposition in public, the fact that he has a reputation for having been a pain to fellow players a few times over his career — those are the things that kept his vote total so low in the Hall of Fame voting in 2012. Montgomerie got into the Hall of Fame with just 51-percent of the vote, barely above the necessary threshold. Roughly half of voters thought Monty undeserving of the Hall of Fame, but, regardless, he's now a member.

So what happened in Jakarta, at the 2005 Indonesian Open, that causes some people to refer to Monty as a cheater?

It's the second round. Monty needs a very high finish — at minimum, Top 3 — to move into the Top 50 world rankings and get into the field at The Players Championship. He's not having a good round. And on the 14th hole, Monty put his approach shot into a greenside bunker.

The ball was in a bad spot, near the edge of a deep bunker, and Montgomerie struggled to take a stance. He wanted to have both feet outside the bunker, but he couldn't find a stance that worked without having one foot in and one foot out. Monty struggled with the stance for a short time — less than half a minute — and it appeared he would have to stand with one foot in, one foot out.

Meantime, the weather had been worsening, black clouds had been rolling in, and before Montgomerie could play the bunker shot the horn sounded, warning golfers and fans of potentially dangerous weather and stopping play.

Monty did not mark his ball in the bunker, he simply left the ball where it lay. And he skedaddled off the course. Play didn't resume until the following day, and when Monty returned to that bunker by the 14th green, his golf ball was gone. Stolen. Vanished.

We're OK up to this point. No violation of any rule has occurred. What Monty did next is where the controversy arises. Monty consulted with his playing partners and then replaced a golf ball where he estimated his original ball had been.

Then he played the shot. So what's the problem? The problem is that some people who had seen the position of the original ball believe that Mongtomerie replaced the second ball in a more advantageous position. Multiple people contacted the European Tour and told them Monty had replaced the ball in the wrong spot. European Tour golfer Soren Kjeldsen, who had been watching the day before on TV while Monty struggled to take his stance, was one of those.

The day before, Kjeldsen noted, Monty couldn't find a stance in which both his feet were outside the bunker. But after replacing the stolen ball, Monty had no trouble taking a stance outside the bunker, and played an easy chip shot.

Clearly, Monty had placed the new ball in the wrong spot — a location that was to his advantage, that improved his lie, that made his stance easy and the shot easier. Did he do so intentionally? That's where the cheating accusation comes in. Some observers believe Monty had to know what he was doing in moving the golf ball an estimated (based on videotape) one foot or so away from its original spot. He must have known because a) it was one foot, rather than a matter of a few inches; and b) surely it would have clicked to him that his stance was suddenly very easy.

Monty cheated: That's what some at the time believed, that's what some today believe.

Tour officials, however, viewed videotape, after Kjeldsen and others brought the incident to light, and made a determination that no rules had been broken. Monty himself watched the video later on, and after doing so admitted he was wrong about the spot of the replacement golf ball. But he was adamant that it was unintentional. (The chief rules official of the European Tour reached the same conclusion, but only after the tournament ended, negating any 2-stroke penalty that might have applied at the time.) Montgomerie apologized, and he donated his paycheck for the tournament to a local charity.

And that was that. Over and done. Except that it keeps coming back up from time to time, usually when someone who doesn't like Monty (which applies to a lot of people) wants to take a shot at him. And later in 2005, the European Tour Players Committee grilled Monty about the incident for half an hour, then issued a statement expressing "dissatisfaction" with Montgomerie's actions.

Truth is, without getting inside Monty's head there's no way to know what Monty's intent or thoughts were during the Indonesian Open incident.

Photo credit: "Colin Montgomerie" photographed by James Phelps [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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