Golf: Accent on Montgomerie after eloquent opening: Price joins Scot in setting early pace as Irwin loses his cool at US PGA

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The Independent Online
ON THE eve of the 76th US PGA Championship Arnold Palmer received a Distinguished Service Award while pipers in kilts, and with American accents, played 'Scotland The Brave'. The reason for this is not clear but perhaps the strains permeated into the consciousness of the Tartan twosome, Colin Montgomerie and Sam Torrance.

At one point Montgomerie and Torrance led the field at Southern Hills at two under par. The Highland fling lost momentum when Torrance, who birdied the 12th and 13th, dropped back to one under with a bogey five at the 16th. However, he finished with a 69 and that included a six at the fifth where he took a penalty drop after landing next to an out-of-bounds fence.

Montgomerie remained on top of the leaderboard with a 67 and was later joined by Nick Price, the Open champion. The Scotsman and the Zimbabwean are a stroke in front of Ian Woosnam, the Americans Fred Couples and Phil Mickelson and the South African Ernie Els, and two in front of a cluster of players that included Torrance, Tom Watson, Fuzzy Zoeller and David Gilford.

Woosnam, who has made no impression in the majors this year, went to the turn in 32 with three birdies. He should have gone to four under, but missed a three-foot putt at the 10th. At the par five 13th, he three-putted for a six, missing the second from two feet. He was put off by a spike mark in front of his ball. 'It was the worst I've ever seen,' Woosnam said. 'It was disgraceful.' Woosnam went back to three under with a birdie at the 16th, but dropped a shot at the last, where he again took three putts. He put his change of fortune down to a tip from Greg Norman, who told him he was standing too far from the ball.

Montgomerie, who has been in prime form throughout the season, was quickly into his stride at a course which, 24 hours earlier, he described as decidedly unimpressive. 'I can't get excited about it,' he said. 'All the holes look the same.' He did not have a bogey on his card. He missed only one fairway, the 16th, and that by only a foot. Montgomerie, who drank three cups of Gatorade on every hole, said: 'Four 67s will be ample.' At the first he sank a putt from around 25 feet for a birdie three. Montgomerie was striking the ball so sweetly and so accurately he had birdie chances on almost every hole.

He was playing with Norman and Hale Irwin and the latter seemed to have got out of bed on the wrong side. Irwin's behaviour, in fact, was reminiscent of Big Monty when the Scotsman was in the habit of throwing teddy out of the pram. By comparison to Irwin, Montgomerie was coolness personified. It was, of course, blindingly hot.

Irwin, a two-time winner of the US Open Championship, was in club-throwing mode and at the sixth hole he surpassed himself. After missing a shortish putt he hurled his putter at his bag and that was not the end of the tantrum. While Norman was lining up an 18-inch putt, Irwin then threw a ball at the bag and it bounced across the green, finishing a couple of feet from the Australian. Norman, of course, missed the putt and he could have been forgiven for wrapping his putter around Irwin's head.

Montgomerie and Norman did their best to ignore Irwin whose mood was not improved by a double-bogey five at the eighth. Had this been a European Tour event Irwin would almost certainly have been fined.

Montgomerie went to the turn in 34 and gained the reward his play deserved with birdies at the 11th and 13th to get to three under. He nearly had a hole in one at the 164- yard 11th where his ball hit the hole and spun back three feet. He made the putt for a two and gained a comfortable birdie at the par five 13th where he reached the green in two. Price and Els, the US Open champion, traded blows until the South African, like Woosnam, dropped a stroke at the last.

Nick Faldo had a three over par 73 and said he was surprised at how slow the greens were. Faldo, who left innumerable putts short, got to one under after five but had a bad run from the ninth to the 13th.

US PGA CHAMPIONSHIP (Southern Hills Country Club, Tulsa, Oklahoma) Early leading first-round scores (US unless stated): 67 C Montgomerie (GB) N Price (Zimb). 68 P Mickelson, F Couples, E Els (SA), I Woosnam (GB). 69 F Zoeller, L Roberts, S Torrance (GB), T Watson, D A Weibring, D Gilford (GB), L Wadkins, R Floyd. 70 B Crenshaw, C Parry (Aus), J Sluman, G Hallberg, D Frost (SA), J Inman, A Magee, C Stadler, V Singh (Fiji). 71 D Barr (Can), J Haas, G Norman (Aus), J Cook, M James (GB), R Fehr, G Jones, B Andrade, K Triplett, B Glasson, J Mahaffey. 72 B Boyd, W Smith, B Ackerman, J Haeggman (Swe), M McNulty (Zim), P Stewart, R Cochran, C Beck, J D Blake, D Hart, J Bermel, S Lowery, B Estes, N Henke, F Nobilo (NZ), L Mize. 73 J Roth, D Kestner, T Dolby, C Rocca (It), N Faldo (GB), M McCumber, T Nakajima (Japan), J McGovern, L Nielsen, A Forsbrand (Swe), N Lancaster, S Elkington (Aus), J Daly. 74 T Tryba, I Baker- Finch (Aus), H Green, F Allem (SA), M Calcavecchia, R Nuckolls, J DeForest, D Hammond, H Meshiai (Japan). 75 S Simpson, B Ogle (Aus), M Heinen, L Nelson, P Azinger, H Irwin, D Graham (Aus), W Grady (Aus), D Pride, T Gray, W Chapman, B Fleisher, T Johnstone (Zimb). 76 R McDougal, P O'Brien, H Sutton, P Baker (GB), R Hoyt, R Philo, R Acton, B Bryant, B Tway. 77 J Lewis, P Oakley, J Gallagher Jnr, T Cleaver, D Hepler, M Baum, B Redmond, B Lohr. 78 J Maggert, M Brooks, E Terasa, B Zabriski, W Frantz, J Huston, S Ballesteros (Sp), K Perry. 79 S Mahlberg, J Nicklaus, A Palmer. 81 S Steger, J Parnevik (Swe). 82 M Biamon. 87 G Bowman.