Golf: In-form Monty is feeling at home

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The Independent Online
COLIN MONTGOMERIE found himself in a familiar position going into the last two rounds of the Benson and Hedges International. It is the outcome he wants to do something about. "I've been in contention a lot but not won here," Monty said. "I want to change that this week."

A second round of 66 left the Scot on 10 under par, just a stroke behind the leader, Per-Ulrik Johansson. The Swede, who was playing alongside Montgomerie, returned to the form that has put him in the last two European Ryder Cup teams with a 65.

In his first tournament for three weeks following a disappointing spell in the States, Montgomerie has enjoyed staying in his own bed this week and racing around the M25 and the M40. He kept up the pace in Thame with three birdies in a row from the sixth. That seemed to prompt Johansson into action as the Swede claimed four birdies from the seventh and an eagle at the 11th. Ian Woosnam also got in on the act, with seven birdies in nine holes after two double bogeys early in his round put him in danger of missing the cut.

With a 69 following his earlier 68, Nick Faldo managed to put together two good rounds for the first time this season and will be playing weekend golf for only the fourth time this year. "It was good to keep it going and get some feedback from some good shots," he said.

At seven under, Faldo was in a pack that included Jose Maria Olazabal. The Masters champion has been having an erratic time of late, the inconsistency produced by his perennially erratic driving. Having missed the cut both immediately prior to and following Augusta, Ollie's two most recent results have been a tie for 13th in Italy and another missed cut in France last week.

Yet around a course that is hardly wide open, Olazabal's 67 added up to the second day running that he had not dropped a shot. His steadier performance off the tee followed a two-hour session with John Jacobs, the only technical expert he has ever listened to on the subject of his swing. "I'll take another four missed cuts if I win another major," the Spaniard said.

As a master of the short game and the art of recovery, Olazabal has much to be grateful for the invention of the sand wedge by Gene Sarazen, who died at the age of 97 on Thursday. "Any time somebody like that passes away, it's very sad but after 97 years, I think he had his share of good times," Ollie said. Right until this April, Sarazen, the 1935 winner of the Masters, acted as an honorary starter at Augusta and attended the champions' dinner. "Just to be able to see him, you were seeing history walking past you," Olazabal said.

Faldo added: "That's a shame. If there was anyone who was going to make it to 100 it would have been Gene. I sat down with him at the Masters and when he was signing things, he wrote in a perfect straight line. I thought he was a little iron man."

Tiger Woods equalled the tournament record with a superb nine-under-par 61 in the first round of the Byron Nelson Classic in Irving, Texas.

The event is being contested over two courses, Cottonwood and the TPC at Las Colinas. Woods recorded nine birdies in a bogey-free round, including four in a row en route to a 29 on the front nine.

Paul Goydos, Steve Lowery and the 19-year-old Spaniard Sergio Garcia are one shot behind Woods after carding 62s. Two shots off the pace are Justin Leonard, Corey Pavin, Steve Pate, Barry Cheesman and the former champion Nick Price of Zimbabwe.