Danger hole can't dent Monty's composure

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The Independent Online

Colin Montgomerie kept his cool in Florida today after one of golf's most dangerous and dramatic holes knocked him off the leaderboard at the six million dollars Players' Championship.

But Ian Woosnam could not contain his temper after an administrative blunder threw his planned build-up to the Masters in two weeks' time into chaos.

After an opening 75 at Sawgrass, which left him six strokes behind leader Hal Sutton, Montgomerie went on a superb charge and advanced from three over to two under.

But, unfortunately for him, that was with two holes to play and the first of those was the 137-yard island green 17th.

An amazing 41 players went into the lake there on the opening day, and the 36-year-old Scot became another when his eight-iron shot into the breeze took one hop and disappeared into the water.

It cost him a double bogey five - the same as Tiger Woods took there in his first round 71 - and he had to settle for a 69 and a level par halfway aggregate of 144.

Montgomerie had failed to narrow his deficit as a result, Sutton recording his second successive 69 to reach halfway six under and one ahead of fellow Americans Tom Lehman and Omar Uresti in the race for the world record winner's cheque of £680,000.

Favourite Woods is four behind after another 71 containing a double bogey six on the fifth, where his drive unluckily finished in a filled-in divot hole.

Woosnam, meanwhile, qualified with nothing to spare on six over par, but was furious about a mix-up which is likely to keep him out of next week's BellSouth Classic in Atlanta, the final warm-up event for the Masters.

It was PA Sport who informed the Welshman, winner at Augusta in 1991, that his name was not on the list of players for the tournament.

His response was shock and he was then told by officials that there were no sponsor's invitations left and he had to finish in the top 10 this weekend to guarantee himself a start. That appeared remote after he added only a 74 to his first day 76.

"Somebody is going to have it now," said Woosnam, presumably referring to his management company. "I said I wanted to play in Atlanta at the start of the year.

"I had the hotel booked and had arranged a car to pick me up from the airport, but there's been a cock-up somewhere and I'm off to find out about it now."

He added that if he had missed the cut he would have flown home rather than stay in America.

Nick Faldo dropped from one over to five over with a 76, while Open champion Paul Lawrie matched Woosnam's two rounds and also just squeezed through, as did Lee Westwood after a brave birdie at the 447-yard last for a 73, four strokes better than his first round.

But World Match Play champion Darren Clarke slumped to a 79 and his seven over aggregate was one too many.

"I hit only a couple of bad shots, but paid the full penalty for them," said the Ulsterman. "I'm disappointed, of course." He immediately made plans to fly home for a week.

Montgomerie, despite his double bogey, called his round "easily" the best he had played this season.

That is not saying much because he has made only three other appearances so far, but five birdies in the first 16 holes was good in anybody's terms on such a difficult test.

"I didn't do anything destructive until the most destructive hole," he said. "It was a good shot, but the wind was gusting and I guess it must have died on me.

"It was just one of those things and I'm looking forward to getting back into this now."

He birdied the first, second, 11th, 12th and long 16th, where he just missed a 12-foot eagle attempt from just short of the green.

There were a few cheers and claps when he went into the water on the 17th, but they were from behind the green and he did not hear them.

Slow play was something which could have riled the Scot, but although he made it clear he did not think he was the reason behind his group being warned, he did not launch into too much of an outburst.

"There were a lot of delays and we were quite rightly on the clock," he said. "It should have been sooner." When pressed, though, he replied "No comment."

Woosnam's position owed much to a chip-in for eagle at the 16th, but how Faldo could have done with the help of that.

Faldo was bitterly disappointed with his putting. "Technically my swing's great, but I struggled for the pace on the greens and three-putted four times," he said. "But Augusta should be a piece of cake after this."

World number two and defending champion David Duval is 10 adrift after a 73 containing a triple bogey six on the short eighth and a double bogey six on the last.

Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal, playing with Faldo, crashed out on 10 over and has only Atlanta to regain confidence - he does have a sponsor's invite.

Sergio Garcia finished on the same mark, his hopes killed off by his opening 82. He improved 10 shots today, but that was never going to be anything like enough.


6 under - Hal Sutton 5 under - Omar Uresti Tom Lehman 4 under - Fulton Allem (Rsa) 2 under - Len Mattiace Tiger Woods Ernie Els (Rsa)


Level - Colin Montgomerie (Gbr) 5 over - Nick Faldo (Gbr) 6 over - Ian Woosnam (Gbr), Paul Lawrie (Gbr) Lee Westwood (Gbr)

Missed cut:

7 over - Darren Clarke (Gbr)