Montgomerie plays through the pain to pursue Bjorn

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The Independent Online

Colin Montgomerie's hopes of forgetting his US Open choke with a first win of the year are still alive despite another closing six, in the Johnnie Walker Championship here.

After the double-bogey that cost him a first major on Sunday, Montgomerie, this time, ran up a bogey on a 533-yard hole where there were a number of eagles during the opening round.

But on the eve of his 43rd birthday the Scot still handed in a five-under-par 68 and is only three behind Denmark's Thomas Bjorn, who after what happened in the 2003 Open, when his final day challenge collapsed on the 16th, can appreciate better than most how Montgomerie must be feeling.

A comment to a fan coming off the first green said it all really as the round began. After pitching to four feet and making the birdie putt the spectator offered a cheery "Well done" to Montgomerie as he walked by. "Bit better than my last hole, wasn't it?" replied the eight-time European No 1, now the holder of an additional record - most runner-up finishes in majors without winning one.

Afterwards he said: "It was quite difficult to get my focus. Every shot I hit I thought about the last one there [in New York]. I won't get it out of my system for a long, long time. I might never get it out of my system. If I never win a major that will remain with me - of course it will. I need to win one to forget it. Every tournament I play it will ease, but I'll never forget."

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