On-song Monty has Open ambition

Colin Montgomerie matched his lowest round of the year in Paris today – and then urged people not to dismiss his Open chances.

Colin Montgomerie matched his lowest round of the year in Paris today – and then urged people not to dismiss his chances of figuring prominently in the upcoming Open Championship at Turnberry.
“I was eighth there in 1994, and The Open gives me my best opportunity if it’s fast-running,” said the Ryder Cup captain, after a six-under-par 65 in the third round of the French Open Alstom at Le Golf National.
Montgomerie did not expect to make the cut after a closing triple-bogey seven yesterday had dropped him to one over.
He survived by the skin of his teeth, however, and on his return to the course on which he was runner-up last year – his last top-10 finish – he sank a 97-yard pitch to the sixth for an eagle two and grabbed four birdies.
Best of those was a 204-yard four-iron to within a few inches of the flag on the difficult 17th, and that reminded the 46-year-old of his prime.
“That’s what I used to do. I’ve been making far too many mistakes – there were a load of crazy ones yesterday – and it starts with hitting fairways.
“If I do that I can play to my strength, my iron play. This was a very important round for me, and I’ve just got to keep at it hoping it will come back one day.
“That seven killed things off here. I’ve now got to move up as high as I can – I don’t need the money, but I need the points.”
Montgomerie’s world ranking has fallen to 211th, and he is down at 94th on the European money list. He has not been that low since he turned professional in 1987.
The Scot recalled that he first went to Turnberry back in his amateur days to seek a job with International Management Group.
While there he went out on the course, shot a back-nine 29 and decided instead to make playing the game his career.
“If I’d shot 39 who knows? I might never have become a pro,” he said.
At five under par after 54 holes, he held the early clubhouse lead. But overnight pacesetter Rafa Echenique – two clear of England’s Steve Webster, South African Charl Schwartzel and German Martin Kaymer at halfway – had not even teed off again.
Montgomerie’s second round finished just in time for him to watch the end of Andy Murray’s semi-final defeat.
“I think people under-estimated Roddick – he’s no mug and he proved it – but Andy’s got plenty of time and can only improve,” he believes.
Montgomerie is only too aware that the same cannot be said of him. He was 46 last week, and only Old Tom Morris in 1867 has won The Open at that age.
Darren Clarke was on course to join Montgomerie on five under until he double-bogeyed the short 16th for the second time this week.
He finished with a 68 for three under, while last week’s winner Nick Dougherty, his playing partner for the third day in a row, shot 69 for two under.
Echenique’s lead was down instantly when he bogeyed the first. Webster and Kaymer did the same and Schwartzel dropped a shot on the short second, but England’s Paul Waring eagled the third to climb to eight under, only to bogey the next.
Up from 31st to joint seventh came Open runner-up Ian Poulter in his first European appearance of the season. With one to play he was five under for the day and six under for the tournament.
Poulter set a new clubhouse target of six under, but he was furious about a slack approach to the last – “I was already eating my lunch” – and added: “I’m probably as I could be after shooting 66.
“I hit every fairway and every green and it was pretty flawless apart from that shot, which was pathetic.
“I sank a 30-footer and a 50-footer, but missed a sack-load of eight-footers. My game’s exactly where it’s been all year and I’m in contention providing the guys don’t go silly.”
As he spoke Echenique birdied the fourth and fifth to move to 11 under, two ahead of Waring and three in front of Kaymer and Schwartzel.