An injured and worried Colin Montgomerie flew back to Britain from Australia yesterday unsure what the future holds. "I don't think I will be back for a long time," said the 38-year-old Scot after pulling out of the Johnnie Walker Classic in Perth with back trouble.
It is a recurrence of the disc problem which put him out of the English Open last June and flared up again at the end of the season. A specialist in London today will determine the full seriousness of the injury, but Montgomerie appears to be fearing the worst.
"I had an MRI scan in November and it was a lot worse than I thought it was going to be, so it's not good. I've got a very, very poor back apparently and I took a bit of a risk coming down here, obviously."
The advice from Ernie Els is for him not to rush back. Human nature being what it is, the South African's first remark on the Ryder Cup stalwart's withdrawal was to say: "Golf course too tough for him, is it?"
But Els has had his own back problems during his career and added: "I made the mistake about four years ago of playing on. I think Colin has done the right thing to withdraw and get it looked after."
Montgomerie, who had opened with a 76 in his first tournament of the year, had recovered to two over after 10 holes of his second round. But then came a double-bogey six on the next and after driving into sand on the next and hitting out he told his playing partners, Jarmo Sandelin and Peter Lonard, he was pulling out.
Montgomerie added: "It was going again. I can't get through the ball, so that was that."
The seven-times European No 1, virtually untroubled by injuries during that phenomenal run, has always said if he did not think he could contend for titles he would get out of the sport. He was referring to losing his talent, but losing his good health is now a much bigger concern.
Montgomerie instantly decided to scratch from next week's Heineken Classic in Melbourne. His next scheduled appearance is the Accenture World Match Play Championship in California on 20-24 February and after that the Dubai Desert Classic, but both must be in doubt.
He was not the only big-name casualty at Lake Karrinyup. Aaron Baddeley, who won the Australian Open as an amateur, made the cut on three over, but withdrew from the £900,000 event because of tonsillitis, Worthing's Gary Evans, one over after the first day, did not tee off again because of a fever, while Scot Gary Orr pulled out before the start because of illness.
JOHNNIE WALKER CLASSIC (Perth, Aus) Second round scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 138 R Goosen (SA) 70 68. 139 T Jaidee (Thai) 67 72. 140 S Alker (NZ) 75 65. 142 P Fulke (Swe) 72 70; S Garcia (Sp) 69 73. 143 C Jones (Aus) 71 72; E Els (SA) 72 71. 144 N Fasth (Swe) 72 72; N Faldo 71 73. 145 T Levet (Fr) 75 70; R Green (Aus) 73 72; S Dyson 71 74. 146 A Crawford (Aus) 74 72; D Howell 75 71; L Westwood 72 74; A Bonhomme (Aus) 73 73; T Dier (Ger) 75 71; Charlie Wi (S Kor) 70 76; A Wall 71 75; M Gronberg (Swe) 73 73. 147 Yeh Wei-tze (Taiw) 71 76; A Forsbrand (Swe) 78 69; S Webster 75 72; A Baddeley (Aus) 75 72; P Lonard (Aus) 79 68; C Parry (Aus) 78 69; R Jacquelin (Fr) 75 72; W Riley (Aus) 77 70; T Immelman (SA) 75 72; S Gallacher 72 75; G Turner (NZ) 74 73; C Pettersson (Swe) 74 73. Selected: 148 J Donaldson 73 75; J Lomas 76 72 149 B Lane 75 74; J Rose 78 71; D Robertson 72 77; M Campbell (NZ) 69 80; D Carter 73 76. 150 D Lynn 78 72; N Dougherty 74 76; R Wessels (SA) 74 76; 151 G Emerson 72 79; J Bickerton 76 75; A Coltart 74 77; I Garbutt 74 77. Missed cut (selected): 152 G Owen 79 73; M Pilkington 79 73. 153 D Lee 78 75. 154 C Gray 78 76. 155 S Yates 80 75. 157 B Dredge 77 80. 158 C Rocca (It) 77 81; R Russell 78 80; M A Martin (Sp) 79 79. Withdrew: C Montgomerie, R Chapman, G Evans, A Baddeley (Aus).Reuse content