Montgomerie stalks Olazabal

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In a shock development at Montecastillo yesterday no fights broke out. There were apologies all round from Sergio Garcia and the pro-am partner who had threatened to thump the young Spaniard and it was on with the golf. It was the conditions that got threatening and nasty, however, during the opening round of the Volvo Masters.

In a shock development at Montecastillo yesterday no fights broke out. There were apologies all round from Sergio Garcia and the pro-am partner who had threatened to thump the young Spaniard and it was on with the golf. It was the conditions that got threatening and nasty, however, during the opening round of the Volvo Masters.

What was a perfect morning, during which the Swede Pierre Fulke set the pace with a five-under-par 67, turned into an ugly afternoon when, for the pleasure of television, all the leading contenders for the Order of Merit teed off. With the wind getting up considerably, the round of the day was, therefore, Jose Maria Olazabal's own 67. Darren Clarke's 68 tied earlier four-under efforts by Dean Robertson and Greg Owen.

Nobody, however, could have been more pleased with proceedings yesterday than Colin Montgomerie. The Scot has set himself the target of winning the last two tournaments of the season, which concludes with the AmEx World Championship next week. Not, you understand, because he is particularly desirous of an eighth successive money title, but simply as a challenge in itself and to "show them who I am".

The "them" and "they" Montgomerie keeps referring to are, presumably, the likes of Lee Westwood, Clarke and Thomas Bjorn, who along with Ernie Els and Michael Campbell are ahead of Monty on the money list. Montgomerie has been overtaken because he has not won since his victory in the Volvo PGA in May and has only just recovered his swing after suddenly losing weight in the summer.

Determined to start strongly, Montgomerie had birdies at the second, the fifth and the sixth and then hung on to finish on 69, three under. "My objective was to get on to the leaderboard and I achieved it after six holes," he said. "I started there and that was a good effort. The later starters got the worst of the weather but I didn't let it get to me.

"I am exactly where I want to be, two back," Monty added. "They know it, too. It's a competition after all." A car freak, Montgomerie loves to be the face in other people's rear-view mirrors. "They don't like it, do they?" he pronounced.

Montgomerie did like what he could see in front of him. In the previous twoball, Westwood, the Order of Merit leader, scored a most uncharacteristic four-over 76 and Bjorn a 78. "It doesn't matter what anyone else does, I can only control my ball," Monty said before giving the game away by adding: "This is the first day of eight and I am very pleased how it has gone. I have a total in mind to win here and the field has spread out already."

Westwood's day was fairly uneventful until he had an eagle at the 12th and a birdie at the next to get to two under. He was then six over for the next four holes, twice finding the water in a seven at the par-five 16th. Clarke improved his scorecard greatly with birdies at the last three holes, making putts from nine, 35 and 15 feet.

With the course playing more severely even without the wind, since the rough is far thicker than in previous years, Clarke thought his round was not far behind his closing 63 when winning at Montecastillo two years ago. Olazabal only had one bogey and played the last 10 holes in five under. "I have practised very little in the last two weeks since the Dunhill Cup so this is a nice surprise," the Spaniard said.

His young countryman, Garcia, came face to face with his nemesis from the pro-am before teeing off yesterday. "Luis Fernandez Somoza and I shook hands and he said I feel sorry and I mean that from the bottom of my heart and I said I was sorry too," Garcia reported. "We both said everything was forgotten and nothing happened."

Garcia had only one birdie in a 73, but did not have to worry about what his playing partner was saying since it was the usually mute Nick Faldo. Perhaps pro-am etiquette is something Tiger Woods will cover when he gives a clinic in Hyde Park a week on Monday. It will only be a flying visit from the world No 1, who will be en route from Valderrama to Bangkok, where he will receive an honorary doctorate in the philosophy of sportsscience the next day.

* Simon McCarthy's charge towards a place on the European Tour continued in the third round of the qualifying school stage two in Spain. McCarthy cemented his position at the head of the pack on the Emporda course with a three-under-par 68. That gave the Royal North Devon pro a 12-under aggregate of 201 and a one-shot advantage over Desvonde Botes, of South Africa, and the Norwegian Knut Ekjord.

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