By that time Kenneth Ferrie should have converted the five-shot lead he holds here at the Dunhill Links Championship into his second title of the year and once more consign Montgomerie to the bridesmaid's tag he wears so despondently. But, if possible, his gloom will be deepened still further by the realisation that this is the Geordie who was the local boy he chose not to select at last week's Seve Trophy in Tees Valley. Talk about decisions coming back to haunt you. This one is rattling and throwing things.
In fairness to the triumphant Great Britain and Ireland captain, he can point to the continued good form of Paul Casey here as vindication of his wild-card pick. But forgive Ferrie if he's not listening. "No I didn't watch it on the telly," said the 27-year-old, barely concealing his hurt. "But maybe that rest was a blessing in disguise."
The mask was certainly ripped off yesterday when this former heavyweight showed the benefits of a four-stone weight loss by fairly springing around St Andrews without so much as a nod to the severity of the 40mph gusts. A 67 sprang him to 13 under and so close to the £450,000 prize that would make a Ryder Cup berth more probable by the euro. It also appears to have wrecked Montgomerie's chances of that eighth Order of Merit. Even back on the Old Course he now calls "my chessboard", Montgomerie will today need the nerve of a Fischer and the cunning of a Kasparov to overhaul the advantage of his junior grand blaster. Still, at least he will not be playing the game of draughts he was forced to yesterday.
It blew at Kingsbarns as hard as it has blown at any of the three Fife courses used at the glorified pro-am this past three days, which was just what Montgomerie feared when he warned that the exposed village links would present the harshest challenge. Away from St Andrews, of course, Montgomerie loves the wind with all the passion of Arthur Scargill's hairdresser, but when he reached the 15th tee at 10 under, one under for the day, he was withstanding it commendably.
Shame then, that on that mischievous 200-yarder he could not capitalise on an act of the golfing god that was so uncharacteristic in its benevolence. After squirting a chip 25 feet past he crouched over it knowing a par was a long shot, or, in this case, a long putt.
But then, as he was about to address the ball, it started to wobble in the gales, and after Montgomerie stepped away it was helped to within six feet of the hole. "There was a moment when I thought, 'Oh no', because if it had blown the other way it would have been in the ocean," he said. Not that Montgomerie was certain that this was the happy ending it seemed and, no doubt mindful of March's "Jakartagate" controversy - when the Scot was caught on television taking an erroneous drop - he summoned a referee to check he had not transgressed. Blessedly, he was told to carry on, but on doing so missed the putt. "I wasn't quite concentrating," he explained.
To his misfortune, Ferrie was when a spookily similar blast of luck befell the boy from Ashington on his 11th. He gladly accepted Mother Nature's transformation of a 20-footer into a five-footer to bring the Old Lady even closer to heel, and having picked up three earlier birdies he carried on beckoning her with two more at the 15th and 16th to sail to six under for the day. That brought Montgomerie's course record of 65 into the reckoning until the Road Hole 17th enacted its favourite role of party-pooper. Nevertheless, this was still some feat in conditions more blustery than the previous day's, regardless of what Montgomerie was to say.
"He played the best course today in this weather," claimed Montgomerie, ignoring the evidence of Henrik Stenson's 65 that proved a low number was possible at Kingsbarns, too. That hurtled the Swede into a tie for second alongside Montgomerie and the Argentinian Ricardo Gonzalez. With one shot back to another Swede in Pierre Fulke and one more to Casey, the finale notionally rests between the top four, although the memory of Thomas Bjorn's collapse to let in Ferrie at June's European Open should serve as motivation to all.
Then, Ferrie came from seven shots behind to prevail, and the trembling golf-shoe will be on the other foot today. "No, Kenny will not be able to sneak in here," said Montgomerie, as sneakily as ever.Reuse content