Golf: Montgomerie prepares to dip

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The Independent Online
NICK FALDO had problems with his chipping; Colin Montgomerie's only problem with the chip is that he used to eat too many of them. In tropical heat Big Monty, red of face and in need of a wet towel, would appear to be at a disadvantage but the conditions have not stopped him from matching Faldo shot for shot in the Johnnie Walker Classic at the Singapore Island Country Club.

After the second round yesterday Faldo, the leader of the Order of Merit on the European Tour last season, and Montgomerie, third in the money list but without a victory, shared the lead at five under par for the championship. Montgomerie weighs in at around 16 stone and has been trying to shed what is surplus to requirements. He is on a low fat diet, which he loyally follows, and an exercise bike which he tends to ignore.

'I still can't seem to lose weight,' he said. For a hole in one at the 17th here, the sponsors' reward is the lucky player's weight in scotch. There is a conversion table in the clubhouse. For example, if the player weighed 100 kilograms he would receive 83 bottles. 'I'm off the board,' Montgomerie lamented.

Montgomerie was second on three occasions last season and third on another four. 'I've got to learn to dip for the line,' he said. 'I've been running 98 yards and stopping. I did it at the US Open last year. I sat back and decided to make pars instead of playing aggressively.'

For the second day running he outscored his playing partners here, Greg Norman and Ian Woosnam. Montgomerie shot 67, three under par for the day, Norman 68 and Woosnam 69.

Montgomerie's putting was excellent and he had a considerable stroke of luck at the last. His downhill chip from an awkward lie would have hurtled off the green but for the fact that it struck the pin and disappeared into the hole. Instead of a five he got a birdie three. Norman is accustomed to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune but this was a Singapore sling that hurt. 'I saw Greg Norman's face,' Montgomerie said. 'He said 'good shot' but I don't think he meant it.'

Have you found, Montgomerie was asked, a low-fat chip shop? He misheard. 'Yes,' he replied, 'it was a low-fat chip shot.' In Faldo's case it was not chips with everything. He scored 68 but kept leaving his chip shots short. 'I'll have to work on that,' he said.

At the 13th hole Faldo shouted at a marshall who in turn was shouting at spectators who were running across the fairway. At the 15th Faldo said he was distracted on his backswing by the banging of a door on a portable loo. He had five birdies in his round, three bogeys, two of them the result of missed putts from four feet.

While Faldo was successfully experimenting, Seve Ballesteros was cutting his losses after a round of 76. The half-way cut was made at 145, five over par, and the Spaniard missed it by two strokes. Ballesteros was attempting, unsuccessfully, to draw the ball, shape it from right to left. Often the result was a pronounced hook. 'I don't want to make excuses,' he said, 'but it really isn't my kind of course. I played badly. Let's leave it at that. I need a drink of water. It's a sauna out there.'

Mad dogs and Scotsmen coped remarkably well. Sam Torrance equalled the course record with a 64. Unlike Montgomerie and Sandy Lyle, who are leaving the London area to live in Scotland, Torrance is happily ensconced at Sunningdale. He has played a lot of golf there, for money, with Roger Chapman and Barry Lane. 'It has helped me to stay sharp,' Torrance said.

The 39-year-old Scotsman is at three under par for the tournament, two off the lead and one behind Ernie Els, of South Africa, and Choi Sang-ho. Choi, who is 37 and the leading professional in Korea, shot 67 in the second round but Boonchu Ruangkit, the joint overnight leader, lost ground with a 72. Nevertheless, Boonchu, a former Thai kick-boxer, comfortably made the cut. It was the leading 65 and ties or, in his case, 65 and Thais.

JOHNNIE WALKER CLASSIC (Singapore) Leading second-round scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 135 C Montgomerie 68 67; N Faldo 67 68. 136 E Els (SA) 71 65; Choi Sang-ho (S Kor) 69 67. 137 S Torrance 73 64. 138 F Couples (US) 73 65; P Senior (Aus) 67 71. 139 B Ruangkit (Thai) 67 72; B Lane 70 69; R Davis (Aus) 70 69; G Brand Jnr 72 67; G Norman (Aus) 71 68; J Hawkes (SA) 68 71; F Minoza (Phil) 70 69. 140 S Richardson 70 70; I Woosnam 71 69. 141 W Riley (Aus) 72 69, T Hamilton (US) 69 72; R Allenby (Aus) 71 70; W Westner (SA) 71 70; M A Jimenez (Sp) 69 72, A Forsbrand (Swe) 71 70; V Singh (Fiji) 72 69.