Monty snubs US for Qatar Masters

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The Independent Online

You can see Colin Montgomerie's point. Flying east out of Heathrow suits him better than flying west. They really do not make him feel as at home in the States as they do in these parts. Nothing is too much for the former European No 1 and the latest championship course to be opened in Dubai is called "The Montgomerie".

Banners with the logo litter the entrance to the Emirates club, host of the Dubai Desert Classic, but the lay-out the Scot helped to design is rather at the nearby Emirates Hills residential development. Such is the exclusive nature of the project, it is not membership that is on offer but "citizenship". The marketing will be on a worldwide basis. Monty-heckling Yanks need not apply.

The course will be managed by Troon Golf, coincidentally named after Montgomerie's home town but actually based in Troon, Arizona. There was more confusion when he offered his thanks to the project's backers, Emaar Properties. This was not a reference to his wife Eimear's properties.

The Monty himself has decided to stay in the Middle East to continue his design consultations and play in next week's Qatar Masters, instead of the Bay Hill Invitational in Orlando. That news was spun out after the revelation that Montgomerie will continue to play in the States, at least at the Players Championship and in the three majors. The only crowd trouble they get in Doha is finding one.

The host of the Bay Hill tournament is none other than Arnold Palmer, who was less than impressed with the Scot's late withdrawal. "I hate to see that," Palmer said on the Golf Channel. "He's a nice man; he's just a little impetuous. I hate to see a player do to himself what he's doing. He's persecuting himself."

Montgomerie is not the only non-American to be heckled in the States. Even the personable Ernie Els suffered while defeating Tiger Woods in the Genuity Championship at Doral last Sunday. "When Tiger is on a charge it gets really busy and they start niggling other guys," Els said. "There were a couple of comments but I did not respond. I heard it but I didn't hear, if you know what I mean.

"I can't speak for Colin. He's in a tough situation. I've seen first hand what goes on and he probably gets it worse than anybody. He's just got to try and ignore it. It usually happens late in the afternoon when they've had a few beers. You just have to laugh at it."

Montgomerie said: "It is very easy for other people to say that. I felt I dealt with it well at the Ryder Cup at Brookline and I've got to get into the mood again. We have been given assurances from the US Tour that people will be dealt with but it only happens because I am considered a threat. I don't want to lose that and I don't want to give in. Winning a tournament would finish it and that's why I go. Every time I go, I'm there to win."

Montgomerie has spent the last week working out in his swimming pool. "I used to think it was just a play area for the kids but I have been in there for two hours every day getting up a sweat," he said. His season has not yet really started but Els has already won twice, last week at Doral and last month at the Heineken Classic in Melbourne.

"It's been a good start on both tours and I want to build on that," Els said. "I have put in a lot of work on my game in the last six to eight months and I'm now reaping the rewards. I am trying to be a bit more intense on the course, but otherwise when I've had enough I'll take a break. I'm not going to go through the pain barrier as I have done in the past."

Thomas Bjorn, the defending champion after beating Woods last year, has again wintered in Dubai, but only started hitting ball two weeks ago after another neck injury. Sam Torrance, the Ryder Cup captain, is also appearing for the first time this season after a knee operation.

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