Monty takes humorous approach in pursuit of first major

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The Independent Online

A rumour swept across The Wirral yesterday that Colin Montgomerie had been involved in a confrontation with a police officer. When asked about it, the burly Scot said: "Er no, not today, I don't think so. But bear with me on that. I'm working on it. I'm sure there'll be some controversy."

It was typical Monty, classic Monty; ever the joker in the run-up to a tournament, ever willing to dabble in self-deprecation, this time evoking images of the "collision" he had with a state trooper after last month's US Open. But tomorrow the laughter will stop. The 43-year-old is Europe's best chance of ending the major drought that extends back seven years. And he knows it.

"I do feel like this course may suit me, yes," said Montgomerie, shamelessly agreeing with Paul Casey's verdict that the majority of home hopes must rest with him. "I tend to keep the ball fairly straight and that's key. Length won't be a problem. It may be over 7,200 yards on the card but in real terms it is playing about 5,500. So I'm looking forward to giving it a go."

Many believed after Winged Foot that the only thing Monty would prepared to "give a go" to would be retirement. The seven-iron from the perfect spot on the fairway that found trouble and effectively wasted the finest chance he has ever had to win a major was at first suspected to be so calamitous as to represent a "that's it" moment. But Montgomerie has bounced back so gallantly that his cause now appears strengthened rather than irrevocably weakened.

"Yeah it's funny that," he said. "On the plane back from New York, I came around to thinking 'that's OK,' went into the event 21st or 22nd on the rankings and came within a whisker of winning. So I couldn't complain. I'm confident. I know where the ball is going and that is half the battle."

The other half of the battle with Montgomerie has always been his putting and in his effort to effect a change similar to last year's Open at St Andrews - where his usually mischievous wand this time complied to produce a bit of magic - he tried to replicate what he maintains was a crucial session with his coach, Dennis Pugh.

Twelve months ago he ventured out to a far flung green on Monday evening for a two-hour putting lesson before finishing, yep, second and here he did the same thing. "This week will all boil down to who holes out the best," he said. "I'm going to have my only practice round later and I'll be working mainly on putting. The way I'm playing I'm not too bothered about the rest."

Montgomerie was talking from a position of secluded luxury, because the rest of the field were in full head-scratch. With balls bounding off the sunbaked fairways into the rough, the worry was obvious and even if no notable winds are forecasted before the weekend the locals were advising that they can whip up in a burp. The angst did not end there as the drying greens were a matter of conjecture, too. Nick Dougherty, for one, was glad officials had decided to water them. "It could have got silly otherwise," he said.

For Montgomerie, though it does not threaten to get silly until the 72nd hole. "I'll be lost then, won't I really?" he said when asked to ponder what would happen if it all comes down to one short-iron approach shot.

But as already mentioned, the laughter will and did stop. "D'you know, I think I've got five years and 20 majors left," he said. "Hopefully I'll be in contention in four of them. You never know. One of them I might win." More than one policeman is banking on it.

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