Fall forces Montgomerie to quit after seven holes

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The Independent Online

The bizarre injury that caused Colin Montgomerie to withdraw after just seven holes of yet another doomed Open bid was merely the icing on the humble pie swallowed by the main home hopes here yesterday. But whereas Darren Clarke, Justin Rose, Padraig Harrington and Paul Casey all experienced bad days at the office, at least they can return to work today to try to turn around the balance sheet. For Montgomerie, a Friday with his feet up will never seem so wasted.

The 40-year-old is due to have an X-ray on the swollen right wrist that broke his fall on the way to breakfast yesterday morning at the Wallett's Court Hotel in Dover. After announcing on the eve of the championship that he felt so fit that "I should win by five shots", Montgomerie was brought rapidly to earth, seconds after stepping out of his room. Maybe the golfing gods could not bear to put their favourite victim through the major grill again. Far kinder to trip him up before it has even begun.

"I couldn't believe it was raining and as I looked up I fell over a step and landed nastily," said Montgomerie, who, for once, nobody blamed for letting his emotions get the better of him. "I just hope it's not broken. I knew it was bad right away and after hitting only about five shots on the practice range I was about to say forget it. I couldn't hit it properly at all. But because it's the Open I wanted to give it a go. It was no good, though. I couldn't strike the ball with any authority."

Covered in cuts and bruises on his hands and knees, Montgomerie laboured on, head down, like a boxer who cannot accept he is beaten and shanked his way to a double bogey on the sixth to take him to six over after seven. The towel was thrown in on the eighth tee when Montgomerie consulted his coach, Denis Pugh, who had never wanted his pupil to tee up in the first place.

"He bent his thumb back almost in double, but was initially more concerned that he couldn't eat his breakfast properly," Pugh joked, but later when Montgomerie could hardly sign Brad Faxon's card as he walked off, this had turned out to be no laughing matter. Just ask Chris Cousins, the 20-year-old amateur from Aberdare in South Wales, who was first reserve and would have played in his first Open had Montgomerie taken Pugh's advice.

The Essex coach had probably realised it was going to be one of those days when he was sitting in a buggy at 6am with another of his prodigies, Stephen Leaney, when an official's buggy smashed into them. A nasty cut on Pugh's head summed up a day that had started badly and was to get progressively worse for the home contingent.

Clarke was the first of the scowl brigade, spitting out that he was "totally disgusted with" a four-over par 75, which included three bogeys in the last five holes. "I hardly hit a good shot. I was just terrible," the Ulsterman said.

Next came Harrington, whose 75 was just as bad with four bogeys and a double on the eighth, but at least the Dubliner had not expected too much, even if the punters had who backed him in to be the lowest-priced British Isles golfer to win this week.

"I wasn't 100 per cent happy with my game coming into the Open - you know when you are not striking the ball well," Harrington said.

"If I was in the form of my life I would think I could come back from here, but I feel I am playing only average and three average days won't bring me back.''

Next came, Luke Donald who was on the verge of not only outscoring playing partner Tiger Woods but also posting a top 20 score before double bogeys on the 17th and 18th reduced him to a 75. "That was so disappointing," Donald admitted, although an opening eight holes that consisted of five bogeys, three birdies and not a single par had signified that here was not the most consistent player on view. "I was a little erratic, making my fair share of birdies, but too many bogeys," the 25-year-old said.

The scenario soon got bleaker as the Brits came and quickly went awry. Nick Faldo said "I just screwed up" after a 76, although Ian Poulter could take lessons from such eloquence. The 27-year-old from Milton Keynes, who has made more than £500,000 already this year, could not be bothered to give two polite questioners any more than a "No, sorry" as he ran to his gleaming Ferrari after a 78. "You only talk when you're winning," has rarely seemed so apt.

By mid-afternoon, Gary Evans's early-morning 71 was taking on an almost mythical quality, and although Billinge's David Lynn, Worksop's Mark Foster, Kilkenny's Gary Murphy and those old warhorses Sandy Lyle and Ian Woosnam all finished with respectable 73s, it was left to the pride of the young guard, Rose and Casey, to pull the day from this dustbowl of the vanities.

Unfortunately, it crumbled in their quivering hands. Rose looked disconsolate enough with his eight-over par 79 but that was nothing to the expression that Casey wore after his 14-over 85. He looked like he had just come across a ghost. But he hadn't. He had just come across a real, living monster called Royal St George's.