When it comes to near misses, heartaches and what-might-have-beens in major championships, Colin Montgomerie could probably write a book on them. In fact, there’s the title of it right there. ‘Near misses, heartaches and what-might-have-beens in major championships by Colin Montgomerie’. He’d probably have to write the foreword too.

As the 119th US Open reaches a finale at Pebble Beach today, there will be one man savouring the ultimate triumph and possibly a few others reflecting on the one that got away. Monty knows all about that, of course.

His last genuine assault on one of the four grand slam crowns came at Winged Foot in 2006. Remember it? Of course you do. You probably put your mortgage on him finishing the job off once he followed up a huge birdie putt on the 17th by clattering a perfectly placed drive down the last. He was left with a fairly bread and butter approach into the green for the par that would have given him that elusive major crown at the 54th attempt. It wasn’t the full Monty, however, more a dog’s breakfast.

Having swithered between a 6 and a 7-iron during a period of enforced thumb-twiddling as his playing partner Vijay Singh had to get a ruling, Montgomerie caught his 7-iron heavy and left himself in the perilously plonked in the rough at the side of the green. “What shot was that?” he groaned as the ball drifted into the worst possible spot. The end result was a grisly and hugely costly double-bogey six as Montgomerie finished a shot behind the eventual winner, Geoff Ogilvy. “This is as difficult as it gets,” he said in the immediate aftermath of that despairing denouement. “You wonder sometimes why you put yourself through this.”

In later years, the analysis would become more an act of self-flagellation. “I had my favourite shot from the middle of the fairway and I cocked it up; what a bloody idiot,” he snorted.

“What I had left was my stock-in-trade, a mid-iron to a green with the flag cut on the right side. If I had to play that shot 100 times, 99 of them would finish 10ft or less to the left of the flag. When my time came I was tight, I didn't complete my backswing and as soon as I hit it I knew I was in trouble."

Montgomerie had lost in a play-off to Ernie Els in the 1994 US Open and was pipped to the 1995 US PGA title in another sudden-death shoot-out when Steve Elkington holed a 35-footer to win. A bogey on the 71st hole of the 1997 US Open saw him edged out by Els again.

The woe at Winged Foot cut deep, however. That was the US Open he should have won. At Pebble Beach in 1992, meanwhile, Monty could have won. That was the year he made his major debut on American soil and put in a performance so assured in the boisterous conditions, Jack Nicklaus came up to him after the Scot’s closing round of 70 – the final round scoring average was 77.3 - and said: "Congratulations on becoming our national champion."

Montgomerie had compiled his round some two hours before the leading group but with high winds seeing scores balloon it appeared to everyone that his level-par aggregate would stand. "I was just going up a television tower to do an interview when I bumped into Jack," recalled Monty. "He didn't know me from Adam, but I knew him. When he said those words I thought to myself: 'Well, he must know’. To be honest, it was only confirming what I thought myself. How could the leaders not drop shots, given the conditions?

“The leaders were on the 10th when I had finished. John Simpson was my manager from IMG. He managed Nick Faldo and a few others, and he had a room at the lodge … I couldn’t afford it, but he could. He gave me his room key, which was two minutes away, and I watched it on TV.

“Tom Kite (the eventual winner on three-under) and Jeff Sluman (the runner-up) both proved me wrong and full credit to them for that. They both had a similar game; they kept the ball low with a low centre of gravity and played great.

"I wasn't that disappointed, though. It wasn't like that year at Winged Foot. Back then I was at the start of my career. I came away thinking, ‘this is my event, it plays to all my strengths’. I couldn't imagine I wouldn't win it at some point."

Montgomerie’s passion for the US Open was a golfing love affair that remained unfulfilled.