Montgomerie finds it tough after highs of Ryder Cup

Famously, now, there was no scoreboard at the 18th green at Oakland Hills so Colin Montgomerie had no idea his putt was for the Ryder Cup.

Famously, now, there was no scoreboard at the 18th green at Oakland Hills so Colin Montgomerie had no idea his putt was for the Ryder Cup. Of course not. A few days on and Monty was back on the Duke's course here and the message at the top of the scoreboard by the 18th read: "Well done, Europe." Below was the list of leaders in the first round of the Heritage tournament and Montgomerie's name was not among them. Nevertheless, the Scot's 30-foot putt across the green from the fringe found the cup and the smattering of hardy British golf fans applauded politely.

With a birdie at the 17th and this eagle at the last, Montgomerie finished with a one-under 71. "Well, it was a good finish," he said. "I'm quite tired, as you have possibly heard from the other Ryder Cup players. The atmosphere was slightly different from last week. It was difficult to get going."

David Howell also had a 71 and Padraig Harrington a 72, but Ian Poulter, at his home club, a 77. "The gas tank was empty," Poulter said. "I have a dull head right now, whether it was the jetlag or one glass of champagne too many on Sunday night, it all added up to a rubbish score." Harrington admitted he was not sharp either, in contrast to this time two years ago when he won the tournament immediately after the Ryder Cup at The Belfry. Some kind words from Harrington helped Graeme McDowell get over his defeat in Cologne a fortnight ago.

Having a week to stew on his loss might not have been the best thing for McDowell but Harrington had indicated he expected the Ulsterman to be at the K Club in 2006. McDowell watched every moment from Oakland Hills and then found himself grouped with Monty and Thomas Bjorn, one of the assistant captains last week.

"It was a bit surreal at the start," McDowell said. "Everyone was very relaxed and I was talking to Colin and Thomas about the Ryder Cup. I wanted to know all about it." It might have been why McDowell managed to take a double-bogey at the first after a perfect drive. But six birdies on the back nine helped to put him into a share of the lead at five under with Jose Manuel Lara, a friend of Sergio Garcia from Valencia who was in text contact with his fellow Spaniard last week, and the Brighton-based Australian Nick O'Hern, who was in no doubt he was cheering on Europe.

Among those who were one stroke behind was Nick Dougherty, the former Nick Faldo protégé, whose 68 was only the third time he has broken 70 in the opening round all season.

Dougherty was a member of the 2001 Walker Cup team along with McDowell and Luke Donald. He was the rookie of the year in 2002 as a 20-year-old but his Order of Merit positions have been sinking since then. He only secured his card for next year by finishing sixth in Germany a fortnight ago, but there is far more to the story.

It was the caddies who christened Dougherty, "George", as in Best. There was not a party he was not at. "I lived the life of Riley," he said. "I was 19, 20, 21 years old and it was fun. It had been quiet at home, my old man was quite strict.

"Suddenly, it was all new and I had money and I liked it far too much. My friends away from golf, it's different, the weekend comes and it's party time. If there was something going on, I didn't like to miss out.

"Lots of people said stuff to me but it almost drove me to do the opposite. It was stubbornness, I suppose, but I had to make my own mistakes. It got to the point where I was pleased just to finish 60th on the Order of Merit. But that was only because of one second place in Sweden.

"It made me feel sick, knowing how I was wasting everything. My family had done so much for me and I didn't appreciate that. I needed a kick up the arse."

A new work ethic, a new swing courtesy of David Leadbetter and a new attitude after sessions with a hypnotherapist are at last paying dividends.

THE HERITAGE (Woburn) Leading early first-round scores (GB or Irl unless stated, (x) denotes amateur): 67 J M Lara (Sp), N O'Hern (Aus), G McDowell. 68 N Dougherty, R Russell, R Jacquelin (Fr), J Moseley (Aus), P Sjoland (Swe), P Price. 69 M Foster, H Stenson (Swe), J-F Lucquin (Fr), J Elson. 70 M Fraser (Aus), S Wakefield, M Ilonen (Fin), R Coles, C Rodiles (Sp), S Hansen (Den), B Dredge. 71 D Park, C Rocca (It), P Senior (Aus), B Lane,

J-F Remesy (Fr), M Maritz (SA), R Karlsson (Swe), D McGrane, T Bjorn (Den), C Montgomerie, P Lima (Fr). 72 D Dixon, S Kjeldsen (Den), P Lawrie, P Harrington, A Hansen (Den), P Lawrie, R Rashell (US), M Roe, W Ormsby (Aus). 73 M Olander (Swe), M Lafeber (Neth), D Lynn, S Lyle, G Emerson, T Immelman (SA), S Khan, I Pyman, M A Martin (Spa), M Vibe-Hastrup (Den), (x) J Heath, C Wittenberg (US), D Gilford, P Golding, R Rock, M Wigele (Aut), D Carter, S Fernandez (Arg). 74 P Fulke (Swe), G Owen. 75 D Borrego (Spa), J M Arruti (Sp), R Muntz (Neth), R Sterne (SA), S Drummond, P Hedblom (Swe), M Lemesurier, S Gallacher, S Luna (Sp), G Orr, F Delamontagne (Fr), C Cevaer (Fr). 76 P Fowler (Aus), E Canonica (It), J Spence, R-J Derksen (Den), S O'Hara, B Mason, M Hazelden, Z Scotland, S Dyson, F Andersson (Swe), J Bickerton, S Dodd, G Havret (Fr), A Coltart. 77 Ian Poulter, Matthew Cort, Alan McLean, Michael Jonzon (Swe). 78 J Clement (Swi), J Hepworth, E Little, S Webster, C Gane, B Davis. 80 I Giner (Sp). 82 A Lovelace. Retired: M Brier (Aut).

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