Montgomerie finds reward in returning to basics

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Colin Montgomerie yesterday fired a five-under-par 67 at Le Golf National to share the first-round lead in the French Open with the local favourite Jean-François Remesy and the Swede Marten Olander.

The 38-year-old Scot revealed he has taken a selfish approach and gone back to basics in an attempt to rediscover former glories. "What I do best is my own thing. I did that for a number of years and was quite successful at it," the seven-time European No 1 said after closing with four birdies in his last five holes, the same stretch over which he finished with two eagles to win here two years ago.

"Instead of trying to hit the ball further to be like whoever, I've taken a step back to go forward. I've decided to think about me for a change instead of everybody else." Asked what prompted such a decision, Montgomerie added: "I'm doing an autobiography and there are a few chapters on the odd Order of Merit position. I was looking back through the yearbooks to jog my memory and noticed I used to score 68 a bit. Four 68s usually wins. The winning scores have not come down that much but there are more people capable of shooting 16 under, I had just forgotten one of them was me."

Montgomerie could not match his co-leader Olander for exhibition play, however, as the 30-year-old equalled the European Tour record for consecutive birdies, carding eight in a row and nine in 10 holes. The only record Olander had appeared in danger of breaking was that for consecutive double-bogeys when, after starting at the 10th, he carded a five on the par-three 11th and six on the par-four 12th to be four over par after three holes.

A birdie from four feet started the streak on the par five 18th and seven more followed, the only one requiring any good fortune equalling the record when he chipped in from 60 feet on the seventh.

The chance of breaking the record disappeared with a wayward tee-shot on the eighth and a bogey, but he hit straight back with another birdie from six feet on the ninth to cap an amazing round.

"It was quite a tough start, I was very cold and I was lucky to have quite a late start compared to some of the others," he said. "I tried to stay positive after two double bogeys in the first three holes because you can never conclude what is going to happen in the tournament."

Sandy Lyle did not even last six holes before withdrawing. Lyle, without a tournament win in almost a decade, said he was in pain from new inserts in his shoes designed to improve his posture, and was eight-over-par when he decided to call it a day.

FRENCH OPEN (Le Golf National, Versailles) Leading first-round scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 67 M Olander (Swe), J-F Remesy (Fr), C Montgomerie. 68 T Immelman (SA), R Green (Aus), M Mackenzie. 69 A Hansen (Den), J M Olazabal (Sp), S Luna (Sp), J Hugo (SA), M Davis, S Hansen (Den), I Woosnam, A Forsyth, R Karlsson (Swe). 70 J Spence, P Eales, T Bjorn (Den), E Romero (Arg), F Jacobson (Swe), M P Atlevi (Swe), R-J Derksen (Neth), P Sjoland (Swe), H Bjornstad (Nor), C Pettersson (Swe), M Brier (Aut), M Lundberg (Swe). 71 J Lomas, I Poulter, R Jacquelin (Fr), T Dier (Ger), S Dodd, T Gillis (US), N O'Hern (Aus), D Lynn, D Smyth, N Dougherty, A Coltart, R Gonzalez (Arg).