Golf: Montgomerie in the mood for a hot homecoming

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The Independent Online
THE new model Colin Montgomerie, who represents Gleneagles as a tour professional, went round the King's Course here yesterday in 63 in the pro-am. 'I'm on a confidence streak,' he said. Montgomerie, born in Glasgow, raised in Yorkshire and honed in Houston, was playing the role of the local hero.

After finishing third in his first appearance in the US Open at Pebble Beach, Montgomerie's profile has taken on sharper focus and he is more than happy in the glens to take the high road. No Scot has won the Bell's Scottish Open and Montgomerie, of course, is aching to become the first. In terms of importance, he said, the Open Championship is number one and the Scottish Open number two. This is what is known as playing to the home crowd.

'I didn't come back from America a better player,' he said, 'but my confidence is so much higher. I'm looking at 10-foot putts and I know they're going in.' Montgomerie, as they say, is seeing it like a football and there is a good reason for this. Last week his coach Bill Ferguson introduced him to the revolutionary PPS or Putting Performance System (patent pending).

As systems go it is dead simple. On the practice green Montgomerie putts with a ball that is the size of a tennis ball. 'When you sink some of those,' he said, 'and then put your own little ball down, the hole looks huge.'

Montgomerie, who is regarded as one of the best putters on tour, has another, more demanding drill. He has 100 putts from two feet and has to make them all. If he does not, he starts again. It is bad news when you miss one in the nervous nineties. 'The pressure is on for the last 20 putts,' he said. 'That's why I do it. It pays off.' To complete the picture, he has acquired a one-off set of titanium shafts which, he says, gives him extra length with his shots and more control.

Ian Woosnam, following his victory in Monte Carlo last Saturday, is another bull in the market and he has regained his putting touch in time for the Open at Muirfield next week. Two years ago he won in Monte Carlo, won here and finished fourth in the Open at St Andrews. 'I performed at about 75 per cent last week,' he said, 'because I started steering it a bit when the chance of victory came. Now I can really believe in myself again.' Meanwhile, he is attempting to give up cigarettes and has succeeded, at least, in not buying them. Last week he cadged a few off Prince Rainier.

Nick Faldo has developed the unhealthy habit of falling under the spell of the twitch factor in recent weeks. He twitched in the last rounds in Ireland, Pebble Beach and France. 'It doesn't bother me,' he said. 'I still have two or three bad shots per round - doesn't everyone? - but in those rounds I was really punished for them.' Should Faldo win here he would regain the No 1 spot in the world rankings.

The timing of the Scottish Open, not to mention pounds 600,000 in prize-money, makes this one of the more interesting championships of the year. Actually, for some players, including the Americans Ben Crenshaw and Phil Mickelson, the money is less important than the facility this week to avoid having to qualify for Muirfield. The first five of the leading 25 here who are not otherwise exempt for the Open will secure places in next week's field of 156.

Crenshaw's victory in the Western Open in Chicago last Sunday was his first in more than two years. The 1984 Masters champion failed to qualify for the US Open last month and if he does not get one of the wild cards at Gleneagles he will play in the final qualifying at North Berwick on Sunday and Monday.

----------------------------------------------------------------- CARD OF THE COURSE ----------------------------------------------------------------- Hole Yards Par Hole Yards Par 1st 362 4 10th 447 4 2nd 436 4 11th 230 3 3rd 374 4 12th 442 4 4th 466 4 13th 464 4 5th 178 3 14th 310 4 6th 480 5 15th 459 4 7th 444 4 16th 158 3 8th 178 3 17th 377 4 9th 409 4 18th 525 5 Out: 3327 35 In: 3412 35 Total 6739 70 -----------------------------------------------------------------