Bjorn foresees end to Montgomerie's reign

Thomas Bjorn yesterday threw down a challenge to Colin Montgomerie's seven-year reign as European No 4, after shooting 64 in the second round of the Canon European Masters here yesterday.

Thomas Bjorn yesterday threw down a challenge to Colin Montgomerie's seven-year reign as European No 4, after shooting 64 in the second round of the Canon European Masters here yesterday.

"I think it's time for a change and I think it's going to be hard for Monty to make it eight in a row now," said Bjorn, winner of last week's BMW International in Munich.

Eduardo Romero has a three-stroke advantage after the 46-year-old Argentinian added a 68 to his opening 64 for a 10-under-par total of 132. But the defending champion, Lee Westwood, moved up from ninth place to joint second with Darren Clarke by firing a 66. Clarke himself hit a 67, while Bjorn is only one shot further back on 136.

But Nick Faldo fell 10 adrift, after the promise of a first-day 69, going round in what he described as a "terrible" 73.

Westwood, with £1.26m already deposited in his bank account this season, leads the Order of Merit, but only by £39,000 from Clarke and £53,000 from Ernie Els.

Bjorn is £315,000 behind and fifth-placed Montgomerie a further £72,000 back, but the Scot is an absentee from Crans-sur-Sierre after missing his first halfway cut for two years last week.

Bjorn, who hit a spectacular birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie run from the 13th to haul himself back into the running for the £153,000 first prize, said: "He's going to be a long way behind after this and I think Lee is the man to beat. He's playing solid golf, he does not seem bothered about anything else and he's going to make a lot of money at the end of the season, because he always does.

"Darren and I will be trying to catch and overtake him, but in fairness I think Lee deserves to be called Europe's No 1."

In making his charge through the field, Bjorn, who was runner-up in the Open in July and third in the USPGA Championship last month - both behind Tiger Woods - hit a five iron to four feet, a bunker shot to six feet, a three iron to two feet and then rolled in an outrageous 55-foot putt. "The three iron for the eagle turned the round into something special," Bjorn said.

Bjorn almost went in the pond at the last as he tried for the birdie which would have given him his first-ever 29 for nine holes, but the ball stayed out of the water by a couple of feet and he saved par.

Westwood, despite what Bjorn said about his character, was bothered by something else as he cut short a Press conference after his round. He had just finished with a bogey six and, when the conversation turned to the number of short putts he has been missing lately, the world No 6 upped and left.

Westwood had solved the problem at the 326-yard sixth hole by holing a 96-yard pitch for an eagle two.

Clarke was in a much more relaxed frame of mind, after nearly blowing his top the previous day for missing a whole sequence of chances on the controversial greens.

Asked whether his wife, who is at home waiting for their second child to arrive next month, had given him a shopping list for the week, the Ulsterman literally took a leaf out of Mark James's book when he replied: "Yes, but I quickly binned it."

Although he felt , for the second day running, that he could have got more out of the round, Clarke kept a bogey off his card.

LEADING SECOND-ROUND SCORES: 132 E Romero (Arg) 64 68. 135 L Westwood 69 66, D Clarke 68 67; J Moseley (Aus) 68 67, H Otto (Rsa) 66 69. 136 T Bjorn (Den) 72 64. 137 P Price 69 68. 138 M Gronberg (Swe) 72 66; P Quirici (Swit) 67 71; 139 E Darcy 69 70; G Emerson 69 70; M Mouland 70 69; M Campbell (NZ) 65 74, C Hanell (Swe) 72 67; B Rumford (Aus) 67 72. 140 M A Jimenez (Sp) 69 71; A Forsbrand (Swe) 71 69; V Phillips 71 69; M Blackey 71 69; N Fasth (Swe) 74 66; P Senior (Aus) 72 68; M Brier (Aust) 70 70. 141 I Garbutt 71 70; P Lawrie 74 67; A Cabrera (Arg) 69 72; M McNulty (Zimb) 69 72; R Chapman 68 73; N Vanhootegem (Bel) 71 70; I Poulter 73 68; A Bossert (Swit) 74 67; B Davis 73 68; D Lee 70 71.