Montgomerie on a roll as he leaves Woods in wake

Just four days after ending a 19-month winless streak at St Andrews, Montgomerie hit some stunning shots to give the 42-year-old Scot a three-shot lead over an 11-strong group including Tiger Woods and Ryder Cup team-mates David Howell, Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia.

It further enhanced his chances of winning an eighth Order of Merit on the European Tour with nearest rival Michael Campbell - currently £85,000 ahead of Montgomerie - seven shots behind after an opening 71.

Montgomerie has never won an official tournament in America - although he did win the individual title at the World Cup in 1997 - most famously missing out on the 1994 US Open and 1995 USPGA in play-offs, and admitted: "I would love to win over here, there is no secret about that.

"Sunday gave me a lot of confidence," he added. "It was nice to win again, especially at St Andrews and I came over here with a lot more self-esteem and confidence than I had and proved it.

"If I had finished third or fourth on Sunday I would not have shot 64. It's just the confidence factor, it has been a huge boost for my career. I am 42 now and supposed to be going downhill. It's nice to go the other way."

Montgomerie admitted part of him wanted to "do a Freddie Flintoff" to celebrate his victory rather than make the long journey to the west coast of America, but there were certainly no sign of over-indulgence on the course.

Starting on the 10th, he took advantage of one of only two par fives on the course with an opening birdie, and picked up another shot on the 12th.

His round really sparked into life just before the turn however, a birdie from seven feet on the 16th followed by another on the par-three 17th where his tee shot finished just inches from the hole.

Another superb iron shot at the 18th made it three birdies in a row and took the Scot into the outright lead.

"I drove the ball well and if you put the ball in the fairway you can score," added Montgomerie, who began the year ranked a lowly 81st in the world but is now 16th in the rankings.

Woods had four birdies and one bogey and declared himself content with his opening round after recovering from a rib injury suffered during the President's Cup a fortnight ago.

"I felt if I could shoot somewhere between two and four under par it would be pretty good," Woods said.

* In Tenerife yesterday, England's John Bickerton, five times a runner-up on the European Tour but never a winner, earned another chance this weekend. The 35-year-old from Droitwich added a 68 to his opening 69 in the Abama Canaries Open to be just one behind the early clubhouse leader Titch Moore. Both are battling to keep their tour careers alive. Just two events remain before the leading 115 money-winners retain their cards and Bickerton currently lies 118th, Moore 124th. "At the end of the day it's down to thinking clearly and I've found that hard this year with divorce and stuff," said Bickerton, who last had to visit the qualifying school in 1997.

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