Golf: The Open - Monty the mood swinger

The Open: Local interest focuses on the beer tent as British players flounder
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The Independent Online
PEOPLE WHO show up at major sports events and watch most, maybe all, of the play on television never fail to arouse my curiosity.

The comforts of corporate hospitality come into this modern phenomenon but an observation at Carnoustie suggests that a section of the hoi polloi find it equally enticing. Every day, fans have taken up position in an area between the largest beer tent and a giant screen, which offers the attraction of being able to follow play without expending energy on the golf course and remaining within reach of lubrication.

To be fair, many of the people gathered there yesterday were simply waiting for something to justify a hike over rough ground in blustery conditions. What they wanted, and were unlikely to get, was a burst of birdies, preferably from a British contender. "I know it's difficult for the players," someone said, "but I'm not going out there just to watch guys hitting the ball into some allotments." The remark indicated preference for golf on terrain that doesn't persuade players that their yardage charts are worthless.

Things livened up when Lee Westwood put in an appearance, his announcement on the first tee bringing about a temporary drop in the brewer's profits. Overnight, Westwood had built up some optimism, clearly believing that at nine over he was still very much in the picture. "You just need a good start and then keep it going," he said. "Look at Greg Norman yesterday. But for that triple bogey at the 17th he could have been around in 67 and gone off today leading."

The wind, however, was still uppermost in Westwood's mind. "It's not so bad when you are playing into it but the difficulty is with cross gusts and trying to hold the ball up downwind," he added.

Going off in comparatively calm conditions, Westwood responded sunnily to shouts of encouragement. Having placed a bet on Westwood, a couple of course marshalls who were my companions at the time were lifted by his apparent confidence. They were rather down at the second when he found sand from the tee and then drilled his ball so hard into the bunker's face that the hole could have been made by a rifle bullet. Double bogey there, three more dropped shots to the turn, out in 41 and moving backwards. Three birdies on the back nine repaired some damage but by then local interest had switched.

Ian Woosnam began tidily but a bogey at the fourth, a double at six and another shot dropped at the next did serious harm to his card. After finishing at 11 over he gave the impression that departure from Carnoustie could not come too soon for him.

One of Colin Montgomerie's problems, one that has consistently undermined his quest for a major, is that he is inclined to see and hear things that escape the attention of his peers. A slight movement in the gallery, an out-of-place cameraman, the faintest whisper. The more pressure on Montgomerie, the more acute his senses become. After returning a 76 in the second round to stand at eight over, Montgomerie, more or less talked himself out of the championship. "I'll just have to concentrate on Medinah," he said, meaning next month's US PGA Championship, his last chance this year of picking up that elusive major.

After four holes, Montgomerie was marching to a different drummer. Four pars and a birdie at the next put a smile back on his face. Not for long though. A bogey at the next, then another. It developed into a rollercoaster round. He birdied the ninth, the 11th and the 14th but gave one back at the next.

Back in front of the beer tent a bunch of the boys were whooping it up without any specific cause for celebration. "We should be out there with Woods and Norman," one of them said, "but bloody hell, you wouldn't be able to see anything. How's Monty doing?"

He was in trouble again after the rough at 16. Another shot gone, back to where he began at eight over, and then another at 17. Westwood was in with 74, no mean feat on an afternoon when the wind was at its trickiest, and Woosnam was fighting back, a birdie at 17 gave him a 74.

At that point in proceedings I came across two men weighed down with over-priced merchandise. "Enjoying the golf?" I asked. "Who's leading?" one of them asked. Told that it was Jean Van De Velde by three he remarked to his friend about a Dutch detective on television. "He's French," I said. "Oh, one of those," he replied.

After handing in his card, three shots worse off than when he began, Westwood refused to accept that he no longer had anything to play for. "I can still make the top 10 quite easily. I've just got to go out there and try and shoot 67 like Craig Parry did today."

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