Golf: Monty keen to return on high

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AFTER four weeks off, the last of which meant sleepless nights and changing nappies, Colin Montgomerie returns to business today at the Benson and Hedges International. Cameron, the new arrival in the Montgomerie household, will not be seeing much of his father in the near future as the Scot plays nine of the next 10 tournaments, with only three weeks rest in the next 21.

Montgomerie has not played since finishing eighth in the US Masters, his best result in the tournament. "My form is a mystery," Monty said. "But I played quite well in the pro-am today and very well yesterday." That is something of an understatement. An early morning match against Darren Clarke on Tuesday was terminated at the 15th with Montgomerie nine under.

With the Volvo PGA Championship at Wentworth and the Deutsche Bank Open, both with purses over pounds 1m, following in the next two weeks, Montgomerie is keen to get into contention quickly. "The Benson and Hedges and the PGA are both titles I want to win," he said.

His task this week at The Oxfordshire, just outside Thame, has been made easier by the fine weather and the withdrawal of the defending champion, Bernhard Langer. Yesterday's sunshine was in stark contrast to the snow that fell during a practice round last year. The B&H has suffered since moving from Fulford and its August date, first at St Mellion and in the last two years in the Siberian gales here. Langer coped better than anyone 12 months ago but a neck injury forced the German home yesterday to see a specialist.

Montgomerie, who faces opposition from Lee Westwood and Jose Maria Olazabal, will however still have to play four rounds in order to win the tournament. "I only want to play three," he said. His last rounds at The Oxfordshire in the last two years have been 84, in '96 when he led with 18 holes to play, and 81. "If the weather had been half decent two years ago, I should have and probably would have won," Monty said.

Alastair McLean, his regular caddie, is still recovering from back surgery, but could be back for the US Open, for which Montgomerie is planning to fly out early to California. "I want to give myself every possible chance to win at Olympic," he said. "I know there will always be a blip on my career if I don't win a major."

The day before he leaves, Montgomerie, plus father and brother, will make a trip to Paris for Scotland's World Cup opener against Brazil. How did he get the tickets? "It's a long story," came the reply. "It'll be a good day out, whatever the result."