Monty qualifies for Open
Colin Montgomerie has qualified for The Open Championship after equalling the course record of 62 at New Sunningdale.
Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie produced a remarkable course record-equalling 62 on Sunningdale New on Monday to earn himself a place in next month’s Open at St Andrews, the course where he finished runner-up to Tiger Woods five years ago.
Needing a second round 65 just to be in a play-off at the 36-hole qualifying event, the 46-year-old, now ranked 365th in the world, went three better than that and finished joint second with fellow Scot Andrew Coltart on nine under par.
With 96 players having battled for 10 places, they finished two behind Shane Lowry, the 23-year-old who won last year’s Irish Open as an amateur and who will now play his first major after matching one of Sir Nick Faldo’s best-ever rounds today.
Lowry scored a course record-equalling 62 on the Old – the same as Faldo in the 1986 European Open – but Montgomerie’s round came on by far the tougher of the two lay-outs.
The eight-time European number one has never missed an Open since his debut at the Home of Golf in 1990 and realised it was probably his last chance to play another championship there.
“It’s a special place no question and I’m just glad the opportunity has been taken,” said Montgomerie, who turns 47 later this month.
His round equalled the record set by Graeme Storm in the same event a year ago. Lowry, only one under par the turn during his morning round, started for home with six successive birdies and by pitching to 18 inches at the 425-yard 17th he was able to equal the joint lowest score of Faldo’s European Tour career.
“I’ve been struggling on the greens and confidence was a bit low, so I changed my putter this morning,” commented Lowry. “After nine holes I said to my caddie I’m going to have to be patient and it certainly paid off.
“St Andrews is going to be great. I said at the start of the year it’s one tournament I wanted to play.”
Joint fourth were Northern Ireland’s Gareth Maybin and Dane Thomas Bjorn – second to Woods at St Andrews in 2000 and to Ben Curtis at Sandwich in 2003.
One stroke further back were Welshman Bradley Dredge, the Spanish duo of Ignacio Garrido and Jose Manuel Lara and also Argentina’s Tano Goya.
That left six men on six under with one place left, but that instantly became five because South African James Kingston had already decided to head off to Heathrow for a flight to Botswana.
Among those who missed out were Darren Clarke, Paul McGinley and 17-year-old Italian Matteo Manassero, who would have been in the play-off if he had made a 12-foot eagle attempt on the last.
The young Italian star, now a month into his professional career, finished in a tie for 13th at Turnberry as the reigning British amateur champion and came joint 36th at The Masters in April – the best finish by a European amateur at Augusta for 73 years.
The 10th spot went to Marcel Siem, the German who led the Wales Open with a round to go, with a birdie at the first extra hole.
Welshman Jamie Donaldson, Dubliner Peter Lawrie, France’s Gregory Bourdy and Swede Patrik Sjoland failed to match him.
FOOTNOTE: Monty had more than his course record and Open qualification to enthuse about when he spoke to the media afterwards.
The European Ryder Cup captain took time out to heap praise on Justin Rose.
Rose won his first PGA Tour title at the Memorial Tournament in Ohio after deciding, like many other top European Ryder Cup hopefuls, not to enter the Wales Open at Celtic Manor.
“I said, ‘I don’t mind you not playing Wales if you perform somewhere else – and he did just that,” said Montgomerie.
“It’s a fantastic time for European golf with Justin winning so well and three great results at Celtic Manor.”
Graeme McDowell won there with Rhys Davies second and Luke Donald third.
“We all know that Justin had that awful slump (21 successive missed cuts at the start of his professional career) but he has proved himself,” Montgomerie said.
“He’s a Ryder Cup player already and this (his win at The Memorial) puts him in position again.”
Rose still needs a Ryder Cup wild card as things stand, but he still has the best part of three months to move up into an automatic spot.
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