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Montoya the golfer? Yep, he's aggressive, too

5/21/2007 - NASCAR

DAVIDSON, N.C. -- The foursome in the fairway was about 200 yards away, forcing NASCAR's first Colombian-born star to wait for yet another tee shot.

"I've been known to hit into people," Juan Pablo Montoya said with a mischievous smile.

Really?

"Yeah, I don't make friends too easy," he said.

Really?

"You noticed that?" Montoya replied with an even bigger smile. "F--- you!"

Yes, Montoya is as aggressive on the golf course as he is on the racetrack. The former Formula One star would rather hit a driver even if it means knocking it 50 yards out of bounds than play it safe with a 3-wood into the fairway.

He doesn't mind hanging a shot out over the water if it means 20 more yards if it draws back toward the fairway anymore than he minds hanging a fellow driver out to dry on a pass.

"Sometimes I hit the ball so hard it scares the hell out of me," said Montoya, who has Tiger-like distance for a man so small. "My problem is consistency."

It's certainly not patience, which owner Chip Ganassi questioned earlier this year after learning that his driver played golf. Montoya will spend more time setting up a shot into the green than he will setting up a pass of Ryan Newman.

OK, bad example. Montoya and Newman don't play golf together and probably never will as long as the two are exchanging paint.

But Montoya was much more patient on the golf course than he displayed in Saturday night's Nextel Open, the preliminary to the Nextel All-Star Challenge.

He got three wide on the opening lap after starting fifth, got too hard on the gas and wound up in the wall after nicking David Gilliland.

"The fans boo Juan Pablo for a reason, and a prime example of that was tonight," said Jon Wood, an innocent victim in the crash.

This is what Montoya meant when he said he doesn't make friends easy. He'll do whatever it takes to get to the front, which he showed at the Busch Series Race in Mexico City when he knocked teammate Scott Pruett aside to win his first NASCAR event.

"A lot of people think I'm a a------," Montoya said. "But you have to be a a------ in this sport."

Montoya doesn't mince words on the golf course any more than he does at the track. The difference, as playing partner Jim Hunter of NASCAR said, profanity is allowed on the golf course.

Apparently, so are obscene gestures.

Montoya playfully flipped off a television crew after his team bogeyed its second hole of this charity event sponsored by Sprint Nextel. Hunter playfully told him that would cost him $25,000.

"Was that really a $25,000 flip?" asked Montoya, who was fined only $10,000 for jokingly giving the gesture at Phoenix not realizing he was on live television.

Montoya's competitive nature was evident from his first tee shot, which he topped with a driver that had more aerodynamic advantages than the Dodge he drives for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates.

"Freaking moron!" he yelled at himself.

Montoya repeated this phrase at least three dozen times during the round, not always using "freaking" as an adjective. He repeated it most passionately after a bad tee shot, which Montoya considers the best part of his game.

"There's a professional golfer from Colombia that I've played with," Montoya said. "I'll hit my drive 280 yards, sometimes further, and he'll hit it 30 or 40 yards past me.

"That frustrates the hell out of me."

But Montoya's frustration doesn't linger. He'll work on his mechanics between swings like a crew chief working on the setup of his car.

"I know what I'm doing wrong now," he said, adjusting his backswing after an errant iron to a par 3.

Montoya has more of the latest technology in golf equipment than he had in his F1 car. He doesn't trust the yardage markers in the fairway, pulling out his laser yardage finder on practically every shot.

"I can't believe you don't have one of these," he said.

Montoya has been playing golf for only three years, but he has a swing that is almost as natural as his driving ability. He is a 10-handicap -- something Ganassi finds hard to believe -- in large part because he has the distance to recover from a bad shot.

Not even Phil Mickelson tries a flop shot from 100 yards.

Ganassi also would be surprised that Montoya has the right mind-set for golf, just as he has the right mind-set for NASCAR. He respects the game almost as much as he does the governing body.

Not that he always agrees with NASCAR. He told Hunter before the round that he as a problem with the consistency of the sport.

He also made it clear he is smart enough to express his opinions behind closed doors and not air them out in the press as Tony Stewart recently did on debris cautions.

"You don't s--- on the hand that feeds you," Montoya said.

Montoya is willing to listen and learn in both sports. In NASCAR, he often seeks the advice of fellow drivers about how to handle certain situations. In golf, he takes lessons even though he insists they sometimes ruin his game.

Earlier this year, he spent nearly four hours hitting golf balls at the TaylorMade headquarters. He hit so many shots that he wore several blisters on his hand.

If the truth be known, there are days he would rather do that than race.

Montoya also is more than willing to give advice, particularly to longtime friend Gonzo, who helps with his gloves and helmet on race days.

Each time Gonzo lined up for a shot, Montoya issued instructions in Spanish, the only time he spoke his native language during the round.

Listening to Montoya over his in-car radio over 500 miles is entertaining, particularly when he goes into tirades after a run-in with Newman. But it's not nearly as entertaining as listening to him over 18 holes.

After leaving a birdie putt 10 feet short, he muttered, "Want to adjust my bra?"

While one of his partners lined up a putt that the group desperately needed, he quipped, "If you miss it, the whole round is your fault."

There's a professional golfer from Colombia that I've played with. I'll hit my drive 280 yards, sometimes further, and he'll hit it 30 or 40 yards past me. That frustrates the hell out of me.

Juan Pablo Montoya

Most of his humor can't be repeated in a PG-13 setting. One of the funniest things he said on this Chamber of Commerce day wasn't meant to be funny.

"Want me to be conservative or aggressive?" he asked as he lined up a chip.

Montoya conservative? That happens about as often as Michael Waltrip makes a race.

The wheels of his golf cart squealed as he drove wide open down a curvy cart path to the first hole. He caught Hunter by surprise more than once with a bump draft, once on a wooden bridge where there was no place to go but a ditch.

Hunter attempted to retaliate after the final hole, smashing into the back of a cart parked on top of a hill while a group in the fairway hit to the green.

Unfortunately, it wasn't Montoya's cart.

"No, he flew right around us and didn't stop," said the unsuspecting victims as they climbed out rubbing their necks.

Two days later, Montoya tried to fly right past the field on the opening lap of the Nextel Open.

Golf and racing.

Sometimes you can't drive 'em straight.

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.