From Lord of the Manor to floored at the Manor. At the course where just seven months before he was the toast of his continent, Colin Montgomerie was down with the dregs yesterday after his worst score on the European Tour in 20 years.
It was a cruel reminder not just of the fickleness of his sport, but also of his advancing years. "I'm not 25 any more," said the 47-year-old, his face red from the exertion of writing so many big numbers on his scorecard.
His second-round 79 in the Saab Wales Open fitted all too snugly alongside his opening 78 to put him at 15-over. The last time he fared more wretchedly in Europe was at the Benson & Hedges International at St Mellion in 1991, when he took that lonely road home at 18-over.
Monty was bright and bushy back then. Now he is knackered and bushy. Last week's seventh place at Wentworth – his first top-10 finish in three years – gave him such confidence. But then on Monday he endured 36 futile holes at the US Open qualifier at Walton Heath and the self-belief drained away with his energy. "Monday came at the wrong time," he said. "If I'd managed to qualify I think it would have kept me going here. Instead I was deflated and that didn't help."
With that, Monty was off on his near eight-hour drive back up to his Perthshire armchair. Alas, the old boy's slippers won't be on long. Tomorrow evening he must travel south again for another 36-hole qualifier. This time it's the last-chance saloon for the Open Championship. At least he has plenty of motivation to burst through those bar doors.
"Sunningdale's very important for me," said the Scot. "Since my Open debut in 1989 there hasn't been a year when I haven't played in at least one major. And I've played in the Open 21 years in a row and I want to keep that record going."
On the evidence of this performance his chances are slight. What made it all the more painful was the venue. The crowds, watching on in horror at his capitulation, were predictably large as they cheered on the captain of the victorious team. In October he was drenched in champagne by the time he reached the clubhouse; this time he was dripping in ignominy. To say he missed the cut implies he was somewhere in sight of it. In truth, he was in another valley.
"I would love to have played well here, and not just because of the Ryder Cup but also because I love the course," he said. "Never mind contending, it's very disappointing not to be playing at the weekend here. I'm one of the last names on the board, you know. Awful, awful."
Celtic Manor will certainly seem less enticing this weekend without his roller-coaster character. Although the sight of Graeme McDowell up there at seven-under following a 68 will gladden the hearts of the sponsors.
The Ulsterman is one behind the leader, Alexander Noren of Sweden, and looking good to retain his title. It is already written deep within golfing folklore that McDowell followed up his Welsh glory with the US Open title. Little wonder McDowell stepped off the Twenty Ten course with his characteristic swagger.
His mate, Rory McIlroy, would have approved. But then the 22-year-old was happy enough with his own placing high up on the Memorial leaderboard in Ohio. McIlroy shot an erratic 72 which was still good enough to keep him in contention for what could be another memorable Irish golfing weekend. World No 1 Luke Donald wasn't far behind either, his second round 69 leaves him four shots off clubhouse leader Steve Stricker.Reuse content