Matchplay abuse is last straw for Monty

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Should Colin Montgomerie hold true to his threat not to play in America again after this season it would effectively end his ambition to win a major championship. Though the Scot led after two rounds of The Open at Royal Lytham last summer, his record in the only major held outside the States does not bear scrutiny.

But at the US Open and the USPGA, the seven-times European No 1 has come as close as it is possible to do without actually winning. And therein lies Montgomerie's problem with American galleries. Win in the States, and you can be forgiven anything. Lose, and you better stay anonymous or face the consequences. Anonymity does not come naturally to Monty.

Montgomerie's management at IMG were keen to portray the Scot's comments, following more abuse from the gallery during his first-round defeat to Scott McCarron at the Accenture World Matchplay, as a heat of the moment reaction, but would not rule out the Scot sticking to his guns. As Seve Ballesteros once observed: "With Monty one day it's black and the next it is white."

Some of the more fanciful comments about his heckling, of course, can only further inflame the situation. Montgomerie is due to return to the States next month for the Bay Hill Invitational, where the host, Arnold Palmer, once asked spectators to be more respectful of the Scot. His schedule also includes the Players' Championship, the US Open, the USPGA and the NEC World Invitational. His biggest problems with the US galleries have come in the major cities, such as the US Opens in Washington and San Francisco and the Ryder Cup in Boston in 1999, where the abuse of the Scot reached an all time low, but Monty responded with magnificent golf to lead an unheralded European team to the brink of victory.

On Wednesday at La Costa, Montgomerie's missed putts were said to have been cheered by the gallery, but McCarron insisted: "The whole thing has been blown out of proportion. There was only one guy who stifled a yell when Colin missed his putt at the 12th. And that was it." But Montgomerie was clearly upset when he walked off the course and told a group of spectators, including a woman marshal, by the clubhouse that "the only thing worse than losing would have been spending another day in your country".

Later at a reception for his sponsors, Callaway, who would presumably have something to say about his future non-appearance in the States, Montgomerie admitted to two journalists that he may just play in Europe from next season. "I'm on my last legs over here," he said. "I'm 39 in June and I don't need this any more. I've got commitments until the end of the season that I will fulfil but that will be it.

"Why not concentrate on playing in Europe, where people like and respect me? Why not be near my family? What can I possibly hope to achieve over here if spectators don't allow me to compete on the same terms as everybody else? It is hard enough as it is to take on Tiger Woods, Sergio Garcia and the rest. I can't do it if I have always got one hand tied behind my back.

"It's quite clear to me that there will never be a level playing field when I play over here. No disrespect to Scott, but a first-round match against him is about as low-key an occasion as you can get in America and I still got heckled. Can you imagine what it would be like if I was one clear with two to play in a major championship? Would I even be allowed to take back the club? Would someone run across the green and snatch my ball away from me?"

Lee Westwood and Paul McGinley were also on their way home after losing in the second round at La Costa. Westwood was beaten 4 and 3 by John Cook and McGinley 2 and 1 by Kevin Sutherland. Sergio Garcia beat Charles Howell to remain the highest surviving seed, while Jose Maria Olazabal and Niclas Fasth also progressed.

Garcia, David Toms and Jim Furyk were the only seeds to reach their appointed places in yesterday's third round as La Costa, especially with the greens as ropey as they are this week, once again proved an uninspiring venue for a matchplay competition.

* Nick O'Hern compiled a one-under-par 71 yesterday to take a one-shot lead after the second round of the Singapore Masters. Nick Faldo was two strokes off the pace after following his first-day 68 with a 69 to end the day on 137, seven under par.