Monty to be sworn in as ruler of Europe

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Shame then, that he marred a portion of all his remarkable work by swearing at a journalist afterwards for no particular reason at all. But that's Monty for you. At least it meant Michael Campbell, not to mention the rest of the field, did not have to foster an inferiority complex in isolation.

Campbell, the only player who can challenge Montgomerie for the right to call himself "European No 1 for 2005", did not even play that shabbily in his round of 69 that nudged him into the red figures. It was just that with a day's-best 66 under his belt, Monty made the New Zealander's mountainous task to overhaul the £105,000 deficit appear on the north face of impossible.

The Scot is nine-under, eight clear of Campbell and "home and Jose" as they say in these parts. And the 42-year-old is nestled by the hearth in the tournament proper, too. But, still, when you are beating the round's average score by six shots and making it 12 birdies and an eagle in 36 holes, you have every right to expect to be two clear of your nearest pursuer. Not even the ominous presence of Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter in behind - three clear of Bradley Dredge, the next "competitor" on four under - was spooking out a golfer who has conquered his demons so emphatically that he should really be sponsored by the Vatican.

"You come here with so many pressures that to score nine-under after two rounds is some result," Montgomerie said. "I made it look easy out there but it wasn't, I can assure you. In fact, it was bloody hard."

Just like Thursday, it was a 3-4-2 start that set the tone. Two under for the day after three holes, Montgomerie seemed to have the ball on the most obedient piece of string as he inexorably marched to four under for the day - eight-under overall - by the turn.

Sure, the momentum was interrupted by a bogey on the 10th - when his ball spun back off the green some 80 yards down the slope in front of the green - but only temporarily. Birdies at the 11th, 13th and 14th holes were impressive enough, but it was the par that he made on the par-three 15th that most typified a command performance when Montgomerie's putter hogged the spotlight.

In an absolute shocker of a position on the fringe of a bunker, Montgomerie was forced to take a stance in the sand and sweep at a ball that was knee-height and it was hardly a calamity when it trundled to the other side of the green, some 40 feet away. No matter, simply roll in the putt, claim your par and walk on. Or in Poulter's case, groan on as his commendable 68 was only good enough to keep him in touch. Indeed, it would not even have been that good if Montgomerie had not slipped by a careless three-footer for par on the last.

"It was getting very, very dark out there and it made that putt extremely difficult," Montgomerie said. "I don't understand why play had to start so late today and it made it unfair for the later starters." With that he was off to undertake his usual warm-down routine and round on a man holding a notepad.

Typical Montgomerie. Even on the brink of glory he can still come across as the most miserable unfortunate in all of Europe.