For the first time in 21 years, the Open Championship is almost certain to be without one of its most colourful characters. Colin Montgomerie, who has never lifted the Claret Jug but has attracted more headlines than many of the champions, failed miserably in his bid to qualify at Sunningdale yesterday.
Indeed, the 47-year-old finished bottom of the 72 players who completed the 36-hole marathon at the Berkshire club. After a 71 and a 74, Montgomerie was on six-over and 12 strokes off the total he needed to stand even a chance of earning one of the 10 places on offer.
So now he needs to finish as the leading non-exempt player at either the French Open or Scottish Open or earn one of the two Sandwich spots available through a mini-money list on the European Tour which continues at this week's Italian Open. Otherwise he will not be playing in the game's oldest major after a run stretching back to 1989.
"It's disappointing, so I'll go to Italy and try again," said Montgomerie. "I will be trying everything as always." While his persistence must be respected, it is difficult to afford the player ranked 311th in the world much of a shout. Granted, 10 days ago at Wentworth he did enjoy his first top-10 finish in three years, but, sadly, his form at last week's Saab Wales Open was seen as more reflective of his recent form. He missed the cut at Celtic Manor on 15-over, his 147th place out of 152 being his worst ever in Europe.
Montgomerie was actually one-under for his afternoon round with six to play, but then bogeyed the 13th and 14th and double-bogeyed the next two to fall to 77th and last place at that point on six-over. It was a far cry from his performance last year when he fired a course-record equalling 62 on Sunningdale's New Course to take his place at St Andrews. Never mind whether Monty is doomed to finish his career with the dubious honour of being the player who finished runner-up in most majors (five) without ever winning one. The question must be whether he shall ever tee it up in a major again.
He has already missed the Masters, will miss next week's US Open and will have to produce a dramatic upturn in form to qualify for the season-ending USPGA Championship. However, Montgomerie will attend many more majors in his burgeoning role as a commentator or as a corporate ambassador. Thanks to his victorious Ryder Cup captaincy, he is still in high demand.
Montgomerie's downfall somewhat overshadowed a tournament which saw England's Graeme Storm emerge as first qualifier for the second time in three years. Bizarrely his afternoon 62 on the New Course – it did not equal the course record because of preferred lies – included a shank on the 16th. "I was lucky not to go into the bushes on that shot," said Storm. "But then I nearly holed-in-one on the 17th and holed a 15-footer on the last."
On 12-under the Hartlepool man finished three ahead of Sunday's Wales Open champion, Alexander Noren, and four clear of Scotland's Peter Whiteford, England's Gary Boyd and the 2002 Open runner-up Thomas Levet, from France. Another pair of Englishmen in Kenneth Ferrie and Richard McEvoy also qualified with Levet's countryman Gregory Bourdy and Spain's Alejandro Canizares. Other notables who missed out included the former Ryder Cup player Paul McGinley and Nick Dougherty.
* Tiger Woods yesterday revealed that he will be leaving IMG, his management company since he turned professional in 1996. Mark Steinberg left the company last month and the former world No 1 has decided to remain with his agent of the last 12 years.