Golf: Monty finds the mood

US Open: Europe's No 1 gets back on the flair way as he resurrects his challenge for a first major championship
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Unlikely as it may have seemed on Thursday evening for Colin Montgomerie and Tiger Woods to have embarked on their third rounds in the US Open on the same score, it did not remain that way for long. Montgomerie, regaining the precision of his opening 65, moved back into contention before a thunderstorm interrupted play, while Woods once more tangled with the jungle that is Congressional's rough.

Woods can look just as much of a hacker as anyone else in the five-inch stuff. Beginning at one over par after a second-round 67 and having missed the fairway on the right at the fourth, he hooked his second 30 yards right of the green. His recovery flew the green and after an awkward pitch he could only two-putt for a double-bogey six.

Responding in the only way the 21-year-old knows, Woods hit his approach to three feet at the fifth and his tee shot at the seventh to the same distance to regain parity on the day. But a dropped shot at the next was only recovered by stiffing his approach at the 10th. By then, Monty was off and running.

After his disappointing and gallery-interactive round of 76 on Friday, "Go, Monty" was the exhortation that the Scot received on the first green. Montgomerie, however, had work to do to save his par, dribbling a delicate chip from a nasty lie and a tricky stance close enough to tap in.

By the fourth, though, he was back in his usual mode and holed from eight feet for his first birdie for 24 holes. Once more controlling the distance on his approach shots with the required touch, Montgomerie just missed birdie chances at the next two before seeing a curling 15-footer find the cup at the seventh. A grin slowly broke out on a face that the day before had been hot and flustered, and he weakly punched the air in salute.

More was to come as he holed from six feet at the eighth and spun in his wedge shot at the par-five ninth to a foot. Turning in 31, Montgomerie dropped his first shot of the day when he pushed his drive at the 10th, but then hit his tee shot at the 12th to three feet only for play to be suspended. At two under, Montgomerie was three behind Open champion Tom Lehman and Jeff Maggert, who led by two from Hal Sutton and Stewart Cink.

As television showed Montgomerie's tee shot on tape after the hooter had gone, the USGA received enquiries about a possible rules violation. Since the penalty would have been disqualification, it was a good job the reality, rather than TV's version of events, occurred in the correct order.

Lehman, on a roll of third and second in the US Open in the last two years, went about his business with the same confident air he showed at Royal Lytham last year. He ran up his approach at the fourth to two feet, and then holed from six at the next to move to five under, where he was joined by Maggert, who also went to the turn in 31. Sutton found the best way of making progress was to hole his second shot at the eighth for an eagle.

But what went wrong for Montgomerie in that awful second round? Another suspension of over two hours shortly before the Scot's tee time added to the endurance test that characterises the US Open in all its aspects. If there is a way of doing something efficiently and easily, then it is unlikely to be included in the USGA guidelines for running a major championship.

Patience, patience, patience, as our new leader would say, is the priority for players, caddies, spectators, officials and the media. For all his liking for the setup of US Open courses, and there is no denying that his "A" game is perfectly suited to it, Montgomerie still too often finds distractions infringing on his thoughts.

Provocation came when, having just dropped his second shot of the day at the previous hole, he missed a five-footer for birdie at the ninth. There were a few cheers from spectators who had spent the rain-delay getting wet on the inside, but as he left the green, Montgomerie shouted: "Leave it for the Ryder Cup."

On the 16th tee, a spectator exhorted Phil Mickelson's drive with: "You Da Man!" Montgomerie yelled: "Hey, hey" and walked up to the man. "Sorry about that," said the abashed gentleman. "No, you're not," Monty replied. "You're not sorry at all." With which, Montgomerie drove into the rough.

"Throughout the round, there had been some comments that you only expect at the Ryder Cup," Mickelson reported. "Things like 'Go USA' and degrading Scotland. That was uncalled for and kept building up. I thought Colin stood up for me and tried to keep the rowdiness down between shots."

While Montgomerie missed only one fairway and two greens in regulation on Thursday, the following day it was a very different story, hitting just five of 14 fairways and eight of 18 greens. Where once Monty was hyper-consistent, he has become alarmingly erratic: either very, very good, or absurdly poor. Witness his last two rounds of 76, 64 at the PGA Championship. The good news is there is little, technically, in his swing to go wrong and the remedy can, and was, swiftly found.

Eleven other Europeans were in action, although Bernhard Langer and Padraig Harrington only did so to confirm they would miss the cut. Since 84 players survived under the 10-shot rule, it was more of a trim. Nick Faldo holed a 35-footer at the last in his third-round 69, but Darren Clarke dropped four shots in his last three holes for a 73.

US Open diary, page 22

Scores from the US Open

Early third-round scores

(US unless stated)

213 P Stankowski 75 70 68.

214 F Zoeller 72 73 69; D Love 75 70 69.

215 N Faldo (GB) 72 74 69; F Nobilo (NZ) 71 74 70.

216 N Price (Zimb) 71 74 71; B Hughes (Aus) 75 70 71; S Jones 72 75 69; S Appleby (Aus) 71 75 70.

217 M O'Meara 73 73 71; R Butcher 73 74 70; D Duval 74 73 70.

218 E Fryatt (GB) 72 73 73; T Watson 72 74 72; G Waite (NZ) 72 74 72; P Broadhurst (GB) 77 69 72.

219 L Mattiace 71 75 73; F Couples 75 72 72; T Bjorn (Den) 71 75 73; D Waldorf 73 73 73.

220 L Janzen 72 73 75; C Smith 77 69 74; D Clarke (GB) 73 74 73; J Parnevik (Swe) 72 75 73.

221 J Morse 71 74 76; A Coltart (GB) 74 71 76; S Ames 73 73 75.

222 G Kraft 77 69 76; D Hammond 75 71 76; B Faxon 72 74 76.

223 S Adams 71 74 78; M Hulbert 73 73 77; P Parker 75 71 77; B Crenshaw 73 74 76.

224 V Singh (Fiji) 71 76 77; R Wylie 71 76 77.

226 M Dawson 75 71 80; J Green 75 72 79.

227 J Ferenz 72 75 80.

Leading second-round scores

137 T Lehman 67 70.

138 E Els (SA) 71 67; S Cink 71 67.

139 J Maggert 73 66; D Ogrin 70 69; H Sutton 66 73; S Hoch 71 68.

140 M McNulty (Zimb) 67 73.

141 K Gibson 72 69; S Dunlap 75 66; T Woods 74 67; D Schreyer 68 73; J Leonard 69 72; T Tolles 74 67; C Montgomerie (GB) 65 76; L Roberts 72 69; J Sluman 69 72; H Kase (Japan) 68 73.

142 J M Olazabal (Sp) 71 71; O Browne 71 71; D Mast 73 69; S Stricker 66 76; L Westwood 71 71; J Furyk 74 68; D White 70 72; B Andrade 75 67; Jay Haas 73 69; B Tway 71 71.

143 C Rose 72 71; C Perry 70 73; H Irwin 70 73; P Mickelson 75 68; S Elkington (Aus) 75 68; F Funk 73 70; John Cook 72 71.

144 C Parry (Aus) 70 74; T Kite 75 69; P Azinger 72 72; P Stewart 71 73; L Mize 70 74; S McCarron 73 71; G Towne 71 73; J Nicklaus 73 71; P Teravainen 71 73.

145 P Goydos 73 72.

Missed the cut

148 R Black 76 72; L Rinker 73 75; C Pavin 74 74; L Rinker 76 72; P McGinlay (Ire) 75 73; *J Kribel 70 78; B Langer (Ger) 73 75; M Clark 77 71.

149 L Nelson 74 75; PJ Cowan 73 76; M Swartz 77 72; L Silveira 77 72; K Green 75 74; M Calcavecchia 73 76; M Brooks 71 78; *C Wollmann 75 74; M Reid 72 77; S Simpson 76 73; K Perry 76 73; S Murphy 75 74; J Estes 74 75; J Mazza 73 76; E Brito 74 75.

150 G Nicklaus 73 77; R Allenby (Aus) 75 75; K Altenhof 78 72; I Woosnam (GB) 76 74; C Strange 79 71; S McRoy 73 77; D Zinkon 76 74; B Porter 74 76.

151 M Wiebe 71 80; D Trixler 74 77; *T Noe 75 76; M Gogel 80 71; M Sposa 77 74; A Aquilar 77 74; K Schall 74 77; R Cochran 73 78; P Harrington (Ire) 75 76; M Bradley 77 74; D Forsman 77 74.

152 G Robinson 78 74; S Hart 74 78; J McGovern 72 80; M Brisky 70 82; JD Blake 79 73; Masashi Ozaki (Japan) 79 73; K Jones 78 74; J Pillar 76 76.

153 B Gilder 80 73; F Lickliter 71 82.

153 P Mitchell (GB) 75 78; R Cramer 72 81.

154 D Stockton 76 78; *J Semelsberger 78 76; R Hunter 76 78; G Norman (Aus) 75 79.

155 B Wayment 78 77; R Bradley 77 78.

156 R Gunn 80 76.

157 E Humenik 79 78; *B Kearney 76 81.

159 B Tennyson 79 80; T Tryba 80 79; M Schiene 81 78.

160 R Russell (GB) 79 81; M Martin 87 73

164 A Morse 87 77.

167 G Sweatt 78 89.

Withdrew: J Daly 77, D Toms 78. * denotes amateur

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