Montgomerie relishes the green shoots of recovery

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Phil Mickelson gave himself another couple of days to prepare for the Open Championship by missing the cut at the Barclays Scottish Open here yesterday. The American, who won the Masters and was runner-up in the US Open, had a couple of early birdies but a level-par 71 left him at one over par.

Phil Mickelson gave himself another couple of days to prepare for the Open Championship by missing the cut at the Barclays Scottish Open here yesterday. The American, who won the Masters and was runner-up in the US Open, had a couple of early birdies but a level-par 71 left him at one over par.

The halfway cut was level par and a sole leader only emerged from a bunched field when France's Gregory Havret birdied the last two holes to go nine under par. David Howell, who like Havret scored a 64, Ian Poulter, who has not dropped a shot in two days, and Phillip Price were one behind with Tom Lehman, a former winner, and Thomas Bjorn, who started the week in therapy for his mental demons, among those one further back. This famous Scottish setting has also been therapeutic for Colin Montgomerie who, at five under, appears to be getting back more to his old self as he played alongside Ernie Els and Lee Westwood.

The trio are quite content to be playing competitively over the weekend but Mickelson never seemed to work out whether he wanted to be playing this week or gearing himself up for the Open. He had no practice round at Loch Lomond and admitted his head was filled with the notes he had taken from a visit to Troon on Wednesday.

"I didn't play too bad, I just didn't bet into things," Mickelson said. "I have not been worrying about here too much which may have contributed to some poor play." He immediately left the Bonnie, Bonnie Banks to head down to Ayrshire.

Mickelson was not the only casualty as Darren Clarke, Paul Casey, Ben Curtis, the Open champion for another eight days, and Justin Rose also failed to qualify. Rose, hoping to grab the last qualifying spot for the Open, was in an impossible position after a 79 on Thursday and a 72 was not the miracle he required.

"It is going to be strange not being at the Open," Rose said. "I feel I ought to be there." His girlfriend, Kate Phillips, was planning to taken him away for a few days to "somewhere where there is no television". By contrast, Montgomerie knew something was stirring within when he missed a short putt at the last on Thursday and left the course upset. "That's good," said his caddie, Andy Forsyth, "we're getting you back." A 68 left Monty a shot ahead of Els and Westwood, his aim for the first two days.

"Part one accomplished," Montgomerie said. "The way both Lee and Ernie are playing if I can stay ahead of them after 72 holes, I will probably win. Lee is looking a lot more confident after his second place last week and Ernie is so relaxed it's ridiculous." Except, that is, about the photographer who kept clicking when the South African was putting. Els thought Montgomerie might have put him up to it but it turned out the Scot was only inadvertently involved. "He was taking pictures of me," Monty said. "He was focused on me and didn't realise the others were playing." Els said: "Monty beat me for the first two days but we've got to more days to go." In contrast to Mickelson, he added: "I want to try and win this week and get myself in as good as shape as possible for next week."

Havret, who has won once on tour, was playing alongside the course designer, Tom Weiskopf, a former Open champion. "My father was so impressed when I told him I was playing with such a great player," Havret said. "I didn't know he had designed the course until yesterday. I think it is a fantastic course."

Bjorn walked off the course in Ireland last week after only six holes of the first round but scores of 68 and 67 has transformed his fortunes.

"I have gone from being very average to very good," said the Dane. "I hit an awful lot of good shots. I wouldn't have believed I could turn it around the way I have so fast."

Scottish Open (Loch Lomond) Leading second round scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 134 D Howell 70 64; I Poulter 67 67; P Price 65 69. 135 K Ferrie 67 68; T Lehman 67 68; T Bjorn (Den) 68 67; P Hedblom (Swe) 67 68; C Cevaer (Fr) 67 68; M Fraser (Aus) 67 68.

136 N Colsaerts (Bel) 68 68; P Lonard (Aus) 69 67. 137 E Romero (Arg) 65 72; M Campbell (NZ) 70 67; S Gallacher 68 69; T Petrovic (US) 71 66; C Montgomerie 69 68; W Ormsby (Aus) 71 66; T Levet (Fr) 70 67. 138 M Lafeber (Neth) 69 69; M A Martin (Sp) 70 68; L Westwood 71 67; E Els (SA) 70 68; A Cabrera (Arg) 74 64; A Coltart 70 68; M Maritz (SA) 75 63. Selected: 141 J M Olazabal (Sp) 71 70; B Lane 72 69. 142 P Lawrie 74 68; M Calcavecchia (US) 72 70. 144 P Broadhurst 75 69; D Clarke 71 73. 145 B Curtis (US) 73 72.

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