Montgomerie collywobbles at trick or treat 10

Bt Tim Glover

It is called the Seve Ballesteros hole because the Spaniard was the first player to drive the green at the par-four 10th on the Brabazon course here. That was in the days when the Ryder Cup was played without pitch invasions and Ballesteros could play.

Yesterday it could have been called the Halloween hole, for what was on offer was trick or treat; go for it or lay up short of the water. The dilemma was presented to the players in the third round of the Benson & Hedges International Open because they played off the forward tee.

In the first two rounds, when the hole measured 311 yards, there was no option. It was played as an orthodox par four with everyone laying up and pitching on to the green. Colin Montgomerie, the defending champion, did not think much of it on the first two days. Hitting a seven or an eight iron off the tee he complained: "What kind of a hole is that?"

He did not think much of it yesterday either, even though it had been shortened to 261 yards. When he stood on the 10th tee at two over par, he agonised over what club to use. He took out a wood and the crowd, packed around the amphitheatre of this gladiatorial hole, murmured approval in unison: "Monty's going for it."

Monty took yet another look at the target and murmured to himself: "This isn't right." He put the wood back in the bag and took out a wedge. The spectators should have said: "That's not right." If they had shortened the boundary at Headingley would Ian Botham have resisted the temptation?

What, perhaps, was even more inexplicable is that Jean Van de Velde, Monty's playing partner, also declined to pick up the gauntlet. Good grief, this is the man who 10 months ago could have laid up forever and still won the Open Championship at Carnoustie. Instead, of course, he threw caution to the wind and blew it big time.

Earlier in the week here a big-hitting specialist found the green at the 10th with a putter. Van de Velde, whose putter is called "Never Compromise", tamely accepted his four yesterday as did Monty.

In fact, most of the field took up the challenge in the spirit in which it was intended. The abbreviated hole has a green that is 42 yards long and, at its narrowest, is 10 yards wide. It has water in front and to the left, has three bunkers to the right and eight mature trees standing as if on sentry duty. The players walk on to the green over a little bridge. The carry to the front was 223 yards, requiring anything from a driver to a three iron.

There were two eagles, 29 birdies, 32 pars, 10 bogeys and one double bogey producing an average score of 3.716 and making it the third-easiest hole on the course, outside the third and 17th, both par fives. In general, who dared won. The chief beneficiaries were Peter Mitchell and Michael Campbell, who walked off with twos.

Mitchell's eagle, which helped him move up the leader board with a 67, came courtesy of a driver with which he faded the ball to within eight feet of the flag. It made him, with John Towers, one of the most popular men in the Midlands.

Stewards marshalling the green warned spectators: "Watch your heads!" when the competitors were on their back swing. It was sound advice. Jose Maria Olazabal attacked it with a three wood and was duly rewarded with a birdie but he does not know how lucky he was. His ball hit one of the trees on the right, took a kind bounce into a bunker and somehow skipped through the sand to finish on the fringe. By contrast Jonathan Lomas, his partner, hit a similar tee shot but his ball ricocheted further right and he ended up with a bogey five.

Immediately behind them Padraig Harrington opted for a wedge. His approach shot spun back out of light rough and ended up six feet from the flag. It was about the only putt the Irishman missed all day.

As for Ballesteros, who left The Belfry on Friday having missed the halfway cut by miles, it had been a wretched week all round. When he stood on the 10th tee he did not even have the satisfaction of seeing the plaque with his name on it that commemorates his feat 15 years ago. It had been stolen.

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