Montgomerie struggles for birdies on comeback

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The Independent Online

Colin Montgomerie suffered the blues on the greens as the rest of the field blazed ahead on the first day of the inaugural Nordic Open. Montgomerie could only manage a two-under-par 70 at Simon's Golf Club and found himself eight shots off the pace.

France's Raphael Jacquelin, who was first out, established a course record with a 10-under-par 62 for a three-shot lead over Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez, Phillip Archer and Scot Raymond Russell, who birdied his last six holes.

A six-strong group of players - including the English quartet Steve Webster, Brian Davis, David Gilford and Andrew Raitt - were a shot further back on six under.

In total, 112 of the 156-strong field shot par or better, but Montgomerie failed to find his scoring touch on his return to action after an enforced lay-off of three weeks.

Montgomerie injured his right hand when he tripped and fell in his hotel hours before his first round in the Open last month. Although the injury has still not fully healed, he was keen to get back into competition before next week's US PGA Championship at Oak Hill.

He could only find three birdies, however, and said: "I was glad my hand did not suffer, that was the main thing, but I missed a number of putts and on a low-scoring course like this, if you don't hole out you don't score. I've not putted well at all this year and I don't know why. It's the same putter and the same person, but they are not going in.

"The greens are very good so there are no excuses there. Unfortunately the problem is me. The course won't play any easier than this, ever.

"There will be a 62 every day and I hope I do one of them. I need one, it will probably take 25 or 26 under to win so two under is not a very good start."

In contrast, Jacquelin hit eight birdies and an eagle. He had an outside chance of shooting the first 59 in Europe when he stood nine under after 15 holes, but he scored par on the 16th and then hit his drive into a fairway bunker on the 17th.

The home favourite, Thomas Bjorn, struggled with a recurrence of a neck injury but finished in style with birdies at the last four holes in his 67.

"I struggled with my neck yesterday and it got worse this morning, it was difficult to get out of bed," said Bjorn, who was second in the Open and Irish Open on his last two appearances.

"I spent two-and-a-half hours in the physio truck this morning trying to get it sorted and my mind was very much on it. It's the first time in two years I've had a recurrence and it's not really the right week but you work harder when there are that many people watching you."

Bjorn's finish was upstaged just moments later when the Dubai Desert Classic winner, Robert-Jan Derksen, playing in the group behind, holed his second shot to the last with a 3-wood from 265 yards for an albatross - the third on the European Tour this season and second of his career.

* The former Open champion Paul Lawrie has withdrawn from next week's USPGA championship at Oak Hill, the final major of the year, with a neck problem

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