Harrington in pursuit despite water trouble

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The Independent Online

BERNHARD LANGER led a short service of remembrance for the life of Payne Stewart on the 18th green here after the second round of the Volvo Masters, in which Retief Goosen had his lead cut by Padraig Harrington and Colin Montgomerie made his inevitable way on to the leaderboard.

BERNHARD LANGER led a short service of remembrance for the life of Payne Stewart on the 18th green here after the second round of the Volvo Masters, in which Retief Goosen had his lead cut by Padraig Harrington and Colin Montgomerie made his inevitable way on to the leaderboard.

Montgomerie, who started the day eight behind Goosen, birdied the last three holes in a bogey-free 65 to move into joint third place. Harrington also had a round of seven under to move one adrift of Goosen's 14 under par, but the Irishman's effort was by far the most dramatic.

Harrington had 11 birdies, a personal best, but went into the water twice, including at the 17th for the second day running. At the 15th, he also hit his second shot from the rough with a three-wood just 15 yards.

Both Harrington, sixth on the order of merit, and the fourth-placed Goosen, who had a 68, have this season consulted the Belgian sports psychologist Jos Vantisphout, and Montgomerie, aiming for a seventh money list victory after next week's AmEx World Championship, has long appreciated the nuances of the mental side of the game.

"The putts at the last two holes got me on the leaderboard and that was important," Monty said. "If people thought I was having a quiet week, they don't know me well enough. I can't win the order of merit here but I can gain confidence in my own game and put more pressure on other people and leave less on me for next week."

While Montgomerie says that his main aim is to continue moving up the world rankings - David Duval at No 2 is the next man in his sights - and that winning a major would be a "bonus", there is no doubt the Scot rejoices in his status at the European No 1. "It's getting tougher," he said. "The guys are getting as good and as determined as I am. It may only last for another week but, if I win this year, I'll be as determined next year. Over the last few years, it's not been a case of wanting to win the order of merit as not wanting others to win. I don't want to finish third or fourth.

"There may be better players, and better ball-strikers, although I must be in the top three or four because no one hits the ball pin high more than me, I've found I can handle it. Mentally, you are always learning. Payne Stewart holed his putt to win the US Open not because of golf, or technique or coaching, but because of guts, ambition, determination and saying 'I can handle it'."

Montgomerie suffered from a rare migraine on Thursday but got little sympathy from his audience when he suggested it was because of the stress he was under. "Oh, okay, I'm not under any stress at all, sorry," he replied.

Later he added: "I prefer this pressure to the pressure of trying to keep your job like players last week trying to keep their tour cards. All credit to those who did; I feel sorry for those who have to go back to the Qualifying School."

Davis Love had a one-shot lead over Tiger Woods after 27 holes of the Tour Championship in Houston on Thursday. Tour officials scheduled 27 holes to be played on Thursday and today so that players could attend yesterday's memorial service for Payne Stewart.

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