PICTURES of past champions flutter on banners on the approach to the 2016 Scottish Open. The pennant marked 1999 carries the unmistakable image of Colin Stuart Montgomerie, the perennial standard bearer of Scottish golf, the golfing master of both the sound bite and the strut, and the monarch of this part of the Highlands certainly in terms of local press interest.

A Monty pre-tournament news conference is thus not a routine natter, but almost constitutes a royal summons. Subsequent press natters, particularly if they are conducted by the side of a green after a missed cut, can be more, well, challenging, but Monty pre-tournament can make David Niven on Parky seem churlish.

His charm is complemented by substance. Montgomerie was pressed on the dropout rate of golfers from Rio Olympics because of the Zika virus.

He swatted away any notion that a mosquito could have kept him away from the chance of a gold medal. “I would have gone,” he said. “Having presented in front of the committee for golf to get into the Olympics, the least I could do is turn up.”

Monty, of course, will not be turning up because he has not been invited, at least in sporting terms.

He is so far down the rankings he can only be traced with the aid of an oxygen tank. This rankles. “I just qualified for The Open,” he said of the day last week when he came through at Glasgow Gailes, “and it says world No 1,200 and something.”

He added: “My world ranking was suspended because we don’t have any world points. I thought, ‘that’s rubbish. I’m better than that’.”

He is better than that, much better. The Scot won the European order of merit on eight occasions, has never lost a singles match in the Ryder Cup and captained Europe to a win in 2010. He also won five tournaments in 1999, the year of that Scottish Open victory. But that was then. That was last century.

Monty now faces his subjects with some uncomfortable truths. He talked yesterday of playing well at Castle Stuart, of having the priority of making the cut at Royal Troon, his home course, at The Open next week. These are realistic aims. Monty, after all, is now 53 and only a champion on the senior tour.

He and about 20 other Scots will tee up today in search of a slice of the £3.25 million prize money, but hopes are modest. “We’ll see,” was his assessment of whether a Scot could win.

There are only three – Russell Knox, at 27, Richie Ramsay, at 158, and Marc Warren, 171 – in the world’s top 200, a statistic employed as a criticism, though it would be an occasion to call for a national day of celebration if it applied in football.

The favourites for victory at Castle Stuart are distinctly un-Caledonian, with Henrik Stenson, Shane Lowry and Phil Mickelson attracting the punters’ money.

Montgomerie, available at 300-1 to win, admitted: “Back in the 90s, I was going to The Open to win it and I used to come here thinking I could win the Scottish Open. That has changed, of course. You have to be realistic and realise that if I finish in the top 10 here, it’s a hell of a performance.”

Crucially, the game has changed, too. “Courses are getting longer,” he said. “But I hit the ball as far as

I did in the 90s. I still hit the ball [275 yards]. Thank goodness for technology, because that has kept me where I am. The ball and the clubs have gained me 25 yards that I would have lost. Trouble is, that’s not average on the Tour any more. You’re up to 295 [as an average] and I’m 20, 30 yards back now, and that’s a lot, that’s a big, big difference. The courses are getting too long for me.”

Asked what it would mean to him to win a Tour event in his 50s, Montgomerie replied: “Everything.”

The years have taken a toll, but more than something of the champion remains.