Numbers don't add up to joy for Monty

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The Independent Online

Who needs the magical figure of 59 to make the sweat drip down back the back of the neck when the equally magnificent one of Colin Montgomerie is casting its instantly recognisable shadow all across the sunblazed leaderboard? Shame then that the equally familiar double teapot stance (hands on both hips) greeted the messy ending to an otherwise tidy round by the Scot to move him to nine-under. Because when Montgomerie looked up the leaderboard last night he would have noticed only a handful of golfers separating him from Robert Karlsson, the leader on 14-under.

In the immediate moments after his 66, however, he had yet to glean any consolation from that. "I'm very disappointed," he said. "I should have gone forward but instead I went backwards. Last month my game was 50 per cent, now it's 70 per cent but still nowhere near where it should be. It was all going so well out there."

Indeed, it was mightily promising after seven holes when he was five under for the day and resembling the Monty of old. A bogey at the eighth and another at the 12th disabused Newport of the notion that they were about to witness the first player on the European Tour breaking 60, but at least they still believed they were watching the first player of the European Tour breaking out of a worrying malaise.

Alas, more blue numbers arrived, the air surrounding him soon went a similar hue and suddenly the recent slump of seven missed cuts in 10 events did not seem so distant. But whatever he claimed, this was many degrees better and a competitive Montgomerie presence seems assured here these next two days.

The Celtic Manor are certainly breathing a sigh of relief to have a star name up there after the Roman Road course had experienced a veritable phalanx of the big battalions trooping out of the gates. First went the trio of the defending champion, Miguel Angel Jimenez, the Ryder Cup captain, Ian Woosnam, and England's next big thing Nick Dougherty.

Supposedly a "marquee" three-ball, they all blew their collective big tops when not coming within a lamb cleaver of surviving the chop. Then came Michael Campbell whose second round 66 went some way to making up for the 75-shotted calamity of the first round but was not nearly good enough to make the weekend. Paul McGinley's premature defection was just as disheartening.

Thank goodness, then, for Montgomerie and for Karlsson, the Peter Crouch of the European Tour. At 6ft 5in, he is one of the tallest players on the circuit and has also perfected his own robotic motion - otherwise known as his golf swing. The 36-year-old's 63 joined his 61 on Thursday to pose a formidable mark.

The Swede has had 15 birdies in the first 36 holes an incredible statistic helped by the run from the third yesterday when four arrived in succession. Montgomerie had better put his skates back on. And his smile might help, too.