Golf: Montgomerie's X-rated course scares European Tour

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The Independent Online

At least on that night before his pride and joy sprang into life, Dr Frankenstein drifted off to sleep blissfully unaware he had created a monster that would terrify all who met it. Poor old Colin Montgomerie was afforded no such slumber last night as the wind howled around the course he designed, and the bolts screwed tighter in ominous readiness for today's Irish Open.

At least on that night before his pride and joy sprang into life, Dr Frankenstein drifted off to sleep blissfully unaware he had created a monster that would terrify all who met it. Poor old Colin Montgomerie was afforded no such slumber last night as the wind howled around the course he designed, and the bolts screwed tighter in ominous readiness for today's Irish Open.

Carton House they call it, although after seeing the professionals' expressions following practice yesterday, "Hammer House" might be more appropriate. There were enough horrors out there, that's for sure.

As ever in the U-rated world that is the European Tour, nobody was prepared to be as bold to say publicly that Montgomerie might have gone too far, although the decidedly knowledgeable trio of Padraig Harrington, Jose Maria Olazabal and Darren Clarke did express fears. For Harrington it was fairways so tight you can almost hear them twang in these high winds; for Olazabal it was the bunkers that would make some of Tarzan's traps look accessible; and for Clarke it was the absence of any "let-up holes" in 7,301 yards of positively Herculean demands.

"You don't need to be a brain surgeon to guess who designed it," Harrington quipped, although even the young, radar-like Montgomerie might have struggled to locate the mown bits which are barely 24 yards across and twist and turn like an anorexic snake.

Asked if the Co Kildare fairways were the toughest in Europe, Harrington replied: "Yes. Do you want to add the world to that?

"This is extreme to say the least," he added. "I've never seen a course as severe off the tee... considering the doglegs, considering the crosswinds, it's very, very tight."

Ouch. Well, surely the rest of the place makes up for it? Er, not according to Olazabal. "I think some of the bunkers - fairway and green - are too deep," said the Spaniard making his first start in Europe this year. "I think you're going to see some players not getting the ball out. The thing is you might end up in these bunkers without hitting too bad a shot."

Another fan, then. And despite Clarke's beaming face, the Ulsterman predicted that not only would the cut-mark eclipse last week's season's high at the Forest of Arden - seven over - but also that the winning score might not venture under par.

"It's stunningly difficult," he said. "You don't need 18 tough, tough holes to make a great, great golf course - you can a have little breather here and there and holes you can have a go at. But here, because of where the wind is coming from, there is no let-up holes, nothing to really have a go at." Except, perhaps, Montgomerie. At around 7pm today.

* Vijay Singh said he wants to build "one hell of a golf course" and help bring an end to ethnic tensions in his native Fiji yesterday when he made his first visit in nine years. The world No 2 has accepted a Fiji government request to become a national goodwill ambassador.

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