Golf: Montgomerie keeps his tartan fans in check

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THE radio on the minibus shuttling spectators from the car park to the East Sussex National Golf Club broadcast a warning: 'It's terribly blustery out there, we're going to see some erratic golf.' A couple of the passengers rubbed their hands in glee.

They were presumably pretty poor golfers themselves, revelling in the prospect of golfing greats being belittled by the elements. However, petty jealousies aside, there really is very little to commend a round of golf under a permanent fast-speed hairdryer. The competitors are wary and there are fewer than average shots to merit warm applause.

A spectator in a loud tartan jacket was more appreciative: 'This wind would completely ruin my game.' He was at the East Sussex National to follow fellow Scot Colin Montgomerie. Montgomerie's talent was not in dispute; the real pull for this fan was whether Montgomerie's volatile nature could be held in check as the stewards' caps blew off and the scoreboards billowed.

'Ay, he looks a chunky teuchter,' said the jacket. This was not exactly a compliment, but then few physical descriptions of Montgomerie ever are complimentary. Teuchters are chubby, naive, rosy-cheeked farmers; what lowlanders call highlanders. Montgomerie may look like one, but he is far from being such a placid, unhurried, simple character.

Although he claims to have his temperament under control, there were moments yesterday when he seemed irritated and distracted. He was emphatic, all the same, that the conditions did not frustrate him as he was well aware that everyone else was suffering: 'I realised no one was making a serious move.'

Meanwhile, what's the Scots for being chock full of confidence? 'I'm playing absolutely fabulous; I'm playing great. This is the best I've played in a month's spell,' he said. Perhaps it was all down to that famous bulk of his keeping his feet steady in the dastardly draughts.

He certainly looked the more seaworthy whenever he prepared to drive. His partners for the second round, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Anders Forsbrand, were, overall, less composed; the Spaniard performing a very passable impersonation of Charlie Chaplin on the green at the fifth after marginally over-running his putt.

Jimenez won the crowd's sympathy, but little else, finishing 10 over on the day - which puts Montgomerie's second round 73, bringing him to five under, into perspective. He finished one over yesterday despite playing, in his view, better than he did on Thursday for his 66. 'I hit the ball better today than I did yesterday and I'm seven shots worse.' He put it all down to poor greens and the wind.

(Photograph omitted)