Montgomerie's fine 66 puts him in contention

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The Independent Online

Monty shot 66 yesterday to take him to seven under and that is a position bettered by only one other man in the tournament, the one he will partner in the final group today.

"If Tiger Woods plays the way that Tiger Woods can play around here I would have to agree that second place is what we're doing," he said. "If Tiger stutters at all that gives us a chance."

Montgomerie has been through two years of turmoil during which golf, for once, has not been the greatest complication in his life. He never stopped believing his game would return.

Monty played just a two-ball yesterday, in company with his old Ryder Cup ally Paul Lawrie. The missing man was David Toms, who disqualified himself after agonising about a short putt on the 17th the previous day. The American became increasingly concerned that the ball may have moved after he addressed it.

Montgomerie, we know, has been, and indeed may still be, a golfer of the greatest distinction. For the seven years between 1993-1999 he was the dominating force on the European Tour. Along the way there have also been the egregious efforts in the Ryder Cup. Yet, the assumption was that major success may have passed him by.

The nearest moments have been a US Open play-off defeat to Ernie Els and sorrow in another shoot-out against Steve Elkington for a US PGA championship. The Open, though, has been particularly barren territory, perhaps because of the huge demand placed on him by a domestic gallery.

The joint expectation has been a crushing force on Montgomerie's aspirations.

In 15 efforts at the Open the best he has ever managed is tied eighth at Turnberry in 1994. Now, at 42, he can see the claret jug glinting.

It was a grand day all round for Scottish golf, with Montgomerie's fellow countryman Sandy Lyle shooting 67 to go three-under for the championship .

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