Montgomerie poised for return to top 50

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The Independent Online

Colin Montgomerie scored a superb seven-under-par 65 yesterday to claim a share of second place in the defence of his TCL Classic title in China.

The Scot is aiming to return to the world's top 50 to secure a place in next month's Masters and he knows victory at the Yalong Bay Golf Club could lift him as high as 47th. That would get him into next week's Players Championship in Florida, increasing his chances of staying in the top 50 because of the ranking points involved.

Second place would leave him waiting for the conclusion of the PGA Tour's Bay Hill Invitational tomorrow before he discovers whether he needs to fly across the Atlantic, or on to Jakarta for the Indonesia Open.

Yesterday he began with a birdie at the 579-yard first and picked up another shot with a three at the par-four seventh.

Montgomerie, playing with Paul Casey, had a birdie at the 10th before an eagle three at the 543-yard 13th took him to 10 under, advancing that to 12 under with birdies at 16 and 18.

"My 65 was a nice round and the eagle really helped," said the seven-time European No 1 and winner of this event when it was last held, in 2002.

"It was nice to play with Paul, though. We really helped each other along. I just have to stay within about 80 yards of him off the tee and I am quite happy. If I do that, I have got a chance. I know what I have to do here. I am doing very well and I am very proud of myself. I am a couple back and, on this course, that is only one hole."

Casey was another player to benefit from a benign course which saw the cut at an incredible six under. The 27-year-old followed up yesterday's 64 with a four-under 68 - a mixed round of an eagle, four birdies and two bogeys - to share second with Montgomerie and Korea's Gwang-Soo Choi.

"I got off to a little bit of a slow start, bogeying the second hole, although I grabbed it back on the third but I just didn't have any momentum, even after an eagle on the ninth and a couple of birdies mid-round," Casey said. "This year, when I turn up I want to win. That is not to say I will win but that is the reason I came out here.

"Being a couple of shots off the lead after two rounds, winning is definitely in my mind. In fact, it was in my mind when I started yesterday. This is a great field and a good course, but - if I can play good golf - I'll be near the top of the leaderboard at the end of the week."

Mexico's Alex Quiroz leads on 14 under after back-to-back 65s, while Denmark's Thomas Bjorn is tied for fifth on 11 under. Ireland's Paul McGinley and Scotland's Ross Bain were a shot further back after shooting 69.