Allenby to the fore

Click to follow
So far the Alamo English Open has followed its intention of providing a replica of the US Open. The rough is thick, the fairways are narrow and the leaderboard is packed with a legion of unfamiliar names.

The last time the US Open visited Oakland Hills, Andy North won from TC Chen and Dave Barr. Next week in Detroit, Colin Montgomerie is hoping to become a bigger-name winner in every sense of the word. The world No 3 shot a third round 68 at the Forest of Arden to give himself a chance of a morale-boosting victory with which to fly to America. He is two behind Australia's Robert Allenby, who leads by one from Ross McFarlane and Andrew Oldcorn.

It was Montgomerie's stated intention to win one of the four events leading up to the US Open. He was blown away at The Oxfordshire, was seventh in the Volvo PGA and second last week in Germany. But on Thursday, he shot a 75, his third poor opening round in a row, to leave himself in 91st position. "I said I needed three 68s to win and I now I have got two of them," he warned.

The last two outings on this course have brought Montgomerie both a victory and a defeat in the play-off. Yesterday, he admitted to being fortunate after his firmly struck chip shot at the second found the cup, and two birdies followed when he holed a putt from 10 feet at the fifth, and got a bunker at the par-five seventh. Out in 33, he pushed his drive at the 13th to drop a shot, but birdies at the par-five 17th and par-three finishing holes gave him a share of the best score of the day. "Now I'll be able to enjoy dinner tonight," Monty said.

"It was a nice way to finish. It's hard work catching up the whole time. I've had three weeks of it. You know you can't make another mistake. If I can stay within two or three of the lead I'll be happy. Those in front know I'm playing well. I know I'm playing well. It is just a matter of proving it."

Montgomerie's advance, like that of the South African Retief Goosen, who also shot 68 to match the Scot's five-under total, was aided by a lack of forward movement at the top of the leaderboard. Catching the worst of the greens at the tail of the field, overnight leader Oldcorn returned a 73, and out of the last eight pairs, only McFarlane, with a 70, and Allenby, who shot one better, broke par.

Allenby carries eight different pairs of sunglasses to cope with the full spectrum of glares and, as he did not need them yesterday, he could have lent the pair which "brightens up the dullest day" to the former British amateur champion, David Curry, who has missed ten months with a neck injury. The problem stems from a ruptured disc at the top of his neck which he suffered back in 1994, and having recovered he is now playing six tournaments on a medical exemption. This was the third, and the first in which he has made the cut.

It was unfortunate timing, then, that he should start feeling unwell on Friday evening. Yesterday, he played eight holes in nine over par and retired. "I am so dehydrated," Curry said. "The doctor had told me to drink plenty of water and take lots of paracetamol."

His card included a 10 at the par-four second where he pulled his drive into a bush, took a penalty drop, duffed his approach, put the next in a bunker and then thinned his recovery over the green. "I couldn't concentrate at all," Curry added. "I couldn't focus on each shot. It never rains, but it pours. It is time I made some money."