Montgomerie blown away in gale

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The Independent Online

When his position in Europe was unassailable, Colin Montgomerie was infamously described by the Irish golfer David Feherty as having a face like a bulldog licking piss off a nettle. At times yesterday Montgomerie, his career in relative decline, wore an expression that would have made a gargoyle look like a cheerleader.

When his position in Europe was unassailable, Colin Montgomerie was infamously described by the Irish golfer David Feherty as having a face like a bulldog licking piss off a nettle. At times yesterday Montgomerie, his career in relative decline, wore an expression that would have made a gargoyle look like a cheerleader.

In fact, it is to Montgomerie's credit that he completed the second round of the European Open after going to the turn in 45. The journey from the ninth green to the 10th tee was in the teeth of a gale and had Montgomerie not been clinging to an umbrella he would have been a scotch drowned in soda.

Worse things have happened at sea to Montgomerie - although yesterday he looked as if he was in the middle of the Atlantic in a coracle - and he was buoyed last Monday by his qualification, in a play-off, for the Open Championship at Troon in a fortnight. "It was massive,'' Monty said of his achievement. "It might just be the turning point.''

That was before he arrived at the K Club on the outskirts of Dublin, the venue for the Ryder Cup in 2006. The biennial bash against the Americans will be staged on the Palmer course which, of course, was named after its designer Arnold; the European Open is being held across the River Liffey on the Smurfit course which, of course, is named after Michael, the owner of the complex.

The weather was so foul on a layout that was already hard work that only a tiny proportion of the field finished under par at the halfway mark. Montgomerie was not among them. He finished with an 82 that left him at 10 over par for the tournament and on an early flight home.

The leader, with a remarkable aggregate of nine under par, was Retief Goosen which was startling on the one hand and not so surprising on the other. When the going gets tough, the South African tends to make a move up the leader board. Hardly anybody could handle the greens during the US Open at Shinnecock Hills but Goosen did not seem to notice when the conditions became virtually unplayable as he set about winning his second major.

He had 10 days off before flying to Dublin where he took one look at the new course, another at the weather, and declared that he should have been elsewhere. "I'm a bit tired,'' Goosen said. "I don't think I'm quite ready to play here and perhaps I should have taken another week off. I'm hoping to take it easy and have a nice stroll around.'' This is some stroll.

Goosen, who admittedly went out when the conditions were at their kindest, had four birdies in his first six holes and he did not have a bogey on his card as he returned a 66. He was two shots in front of Maarten Lafeber and three in front of the Englishman Lee Westwood. Westwood, who played alongside Montgomerie, had a 69 which, under the circumstances, he described as possibly his best round of the year.

At least Monty lasted longer than Thomas Bjorn who retired after six holes in the first round, showing classic symptoms of a golfer consumed by a nightmare. "I just can't face being in a tournament at the moment,'' the Dane said. "I want to go away, sit down and think about what I need to do. I work hard from Monday to Wednesday but come the start of a tournament it all seems to collapse.'' Twelve months ago Bjorn led the Open Championship at Sandwich by three shots with four holes to play before coming to grief at the short 16th after which he was forced to accept second best to the American Ben Curtis. "This is the worse stretch I have ever had in my life,'' Bjorn added, "And I am fighting demons at the moment. I can't live in the past but it is easier said than done.''

European open (Dublin) Leading early second round scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 135 R Goosen (SA) 69 66. 137 M Lafeber (Neth) 67 70. 138 L Westwood 69 69. 139 N O'Hern (Aus) 67 72. 140 J Kingston (Rsa) 72 68. 141 P McGinley 70 71; N Fasth (Swe) 70 71; D Howell 69 72. 142 G Brand Jnr 74 68; M Blackey 69 73. 143 P Hedblom (Swe) 71 72; H Stenson (Swe) 71 72; K Ferrie 77 66. 144 A Coltart 70 74; G Evans 70 74; R Rock 72 72. Selected: 145 J Parnevik (Swe) 72 73. 147 P Price 75 72; A Oldcorn 74 73. 149 I Woosnam 75 74. 150 J M Olazabal (Spa) 79 71. 154 C Montgomerie 72 82.

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