Montgomerie takes to the desert in search of Masters place

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The Independent Online

Today, Colin Montgomerie will go in search of victory in the Dubai Desert Classic, a win which would take him back into the world's top 50 and in line for a place at the first major of the season, the Masters.

Today, Colin Montgomerie will go in search of victory in the Dubai Desert Classic, a win which would take him back into the world's top 50 and in line for a place at the first major of the season, the Masters.

The 41-year-old Scot has not missed Augusta since his debut there in 1992 but having fallen to 81st in the rankings last season his first target this year was to get back among the game's élite. Three top-10 finishes have lifted him to 63rd and in Los Angeles two weeks ago his second round 64 was his lowest in the US. The Nissan Open was then cut to 36 holes because of rain and he was not able to improve on his fifth place.

"That round has given me huge confidence and I'm very excited about my form," he said. "I'm relaxed, my back is better than it's ever been and I have Alastair [MacLean] back on the bag. I'm happier than I've ever been, on and off the course."

Ernie Els is the only one of the world's top four not to have won yet this year but he hopes to change that on one of his favourite courses.

"I'm playing well, but I just have to finish it off," Els said. "I didn't finish the job in the first four weeks that I played. I had chances to win each time and every time I didn't quite do that. I feel like I'm swinging well and really hitting the ball well. Everything is there or thereabouts and I just need to make a final package out of it." Els is one of six former Open champions in the field - the defending champion Mark O'Meara, Ben Curtis, Paul Lawrie, Sandy Lyle and Greg Norman are the others - and is seeking an unprecedented third win.

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