Golf: Monty facing a battle in Seattle Monty's on a US revenge mission

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The Independent Online
FOR THE first time in more than 50 years a major championship returns to America's Pacific north-west. But as much as the 80th USPGA Championship at the Sahalee Country Club is a homecoming for one of Seattle's favourite golfing sons, Fred Couples, the week is another testing one in the eventful life and times of Colin Montgomerie.

The Scot arrives at the final major of the year not only having missed the cut at the Open but with painful memories of his last trip to America. At the US Open at Olympic in San Francisco in June, Montgomerie was subjected to the sort of heckling more suited to terraces than fairways. "I've had happier weeks," Monty said.

While Montgomerie, who will play with Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson on the first two days, has been here since Sunday, working on his putting, his arrival has, inevitably, been heralded in the local press. "His attitude, remarks and behaviour over the last couple of years have made the often- acerbic Scotsman, fairly or unfairly, America's favourite golfing villain," noted the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Officials of the PGA of America are aware of the problems Montgomerie has experienced at the last two US Opens and have measures in mind should there be a repeat. But they are also hopeful that, despite the lack of top class golf tournaments in the north-west (the area has been without a PGA tour event since Homero Blancas won the Greater Seattle-Everett Classic at the Everett Country Club in 1966), the galleries will be knowledgeable and mindful of the etiquette of the game.

"As a citadel of politeness, Seattle has no rival among the major American cities," one columnist said. "Whether due to the moderate climate, moderate politics, moderate Scandinavianness or a long-building resistance to the effects of caffeine, we are slow to work up diaphragm-ripping heckles at our jock heroes. We cough nervously and stare at our shoetops. But now comes a fresh test of our legendary tolerance. Monty is in town."

However, most of the attention so far has been on Couples, the 1992 Masters champion, who grew up in Seattle and last played at Sahalee, a tightly tree-lined course, 20 years ago. Huge galleries have attended his practice rounds. "It is kind of embarrassing having people shout at you all day whether you are three under or five over," Couples admitted.

"But this is where I grew up and it makes me feel good. It would be fantastic to win here. This is a once in a lifetime deal. If I won here, I would retire. That would be enough. I would quit and go to heaven if I won the PGA in Seattle."

Bernhard Langer will miss the championship with a neck injury and Darren Clarke has remained in Northern Ireland to be with his wife and week-old son. But Stuart Appleby will play despite the death of his wife Renay in a freak accident at Waterloo Station three weeks ago. She was crushed between two cars while unloading luggage prior to a trip to Paris for a second honeymoon. "I lost my best friend," said Appleby, who has since been home to Australia for the funeral and to be with family. "Now I am trying to get back to normalcy."