Montgomerie suffers water torture at 17th

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Suggesting something to Colin Montgomerie he does not want to hear can be a thankless task. A local radio reporter tried to put it to the Scot after the opening round of the US Players Championship that conditions evened themselves out for all players over the first couple of days.

"Oh, no. Oh, no, no," Monty said firmly, if pleasantly enough. "No, they don't. No, not necessarily. It's not always equal for all players."

The draw for such tournaments leaves a player with either early-late starting times, or late-early times. Montgomerie was in the latter category this week and, though the wind blew all day on Thursday, the afternoon groups found the TPC of Sawgrass playing around two strokes harder than those who played in the morning. They included the first-round leader, Hal Sutton, on 69, and Tiger Woods, who was two strokes behind.

"It was cold and raw and dark and yucky," Montgomerie said after his 75, three over par. That score represented something of a recovery after he took a triple-bogey six at the short 13th, his fourth hole, and a double-bogey six at the 18th. Both times Monty found water with shots that were uncharacteristically pulled left.

At least Montgomerie finished. Some 21 players were left on the course when darkness fell as the pace of play ground to a halt. Rounds took over five-and-a-half hours as the greens firmed up. Finding the island green at the par-three 17th was a problem in itself. Almost a third of the field ended up in the water.

Yesterday it was still breezy though the temperature was considerably higher. But, with the forecast for calm conditions in the afternoon, helping those who had the better of it on Thursday, Montgomerie knew he could not wait to make a move and immediately birdied the first two holes, his eagle attempt at the par-five second just missing.

From there to the turn he produced a number of fine par-saving efforts, particularly considering how the pins were tucked away in highly inaccessible places. The chip he left himself at the 7th could not have been more delicate, while at the par-five 9th the usually accurate Scot visited sand, thick rough and a nasty spot on the edge of a greenside bunker before holing from five feet for par. He had to wait to attempt the putt while a rules official was called to repair a spot on the green which was on his line.

On the back nine Montgomerie picked up birdies at the par-fives, the 11th and the 16th, as well as the 12th. And then he arrived at the 17th, a hole that measures just 137 yards but which provides no margin for error. On Thursday, when Monty's tee shot bounced off a sleeper in the bank of the green before landing on the putting surface, his playing partner, David Frost, stopped to count the divots in the drop zone.

Yesterday, Monty was playing from it after his tee shot hopped over the back and into the water. He could have done without the applause from the large gallery which congregates at the spectacular hole to cheer the disasters as well as the good shots. Two putts from 25 feet with his second ball gave him a double-bogey five.

A 69 brought the Scot back to level par, five behind Omar Uresti, a Texan named after Omar Sharif, who had played 12 holes in four under. But the round of the morning was being compiled by Fulton Allem, the 42-year-old South African who was seven under for 13 holes to move to four under for the tournament.

Nick Faldo had resurrected all his old grinding instincts on Thursday to be placed 24th after a first-round 73. But he could not capitalise on that good start and he was in danger of missing the cut after falling to six over after 14 holes. Ian Woosnam gave himself a chance of staying around for the weekend by eagling the 16th to move back to five over.

The Welshman was expecting to tee up at the BellSouth Classic in Atlanta next week but because of an administrative error he must finish in the top 10 to get into the tournament.

Early second-round scores

(US unless stated, par 72):

143 S Dunlap 73 70 144 C Montgomerie (GB) 75 69, B Fabel 70 74 145 S McCarron 78 67; 147 M Brooks 72 75, D Frost (SA) 78 69, S Gump 72 75 148 S Cink 75 73, N Henke 78 70, R Damron 78 70, D Duval 75 73 149 E Toledo (Mex) 75 74, N Faldo (GB) 73 76; 150 I Woosnam (GB) 76 74, S Pate 76 74, D Forsman 77 73 151 S Kendall 78 73; 152 R Goosen (SA) 76 76, T Scherrer 80 72 153 M A Jimenez (Sp) 79 74