Slim-line boost for Monty's self-esteem

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The Independent Online

With nominations for golfer of the year already down to the shortest of short lists - Tiger Woods' only possible rival being Karrie Webb, who this week attempts to win a third major of the year - Colin Montgomerie would be a better bet for the title of slimmer of the year.

With nominations for golfer of the year already down to the shortest of short lists - Tiger Woods' only possible rival being Karrie Webb, who this week attempts to win a third major of the year - Colin Montgomerie would be a better bet for the title of slimmer of the year.

If generous odds could have been obtained on the Scot prior to a disappointing performance in the Open, they must have been cut drastically after Monty arrived at the Victor Chandler British Masters 16lb lighter than he was at St Andrews.

"When I put my mind to something, I usually achieve it," Montgomerie said. He knows no other way to go on a fast than to do it fast. Now that off-course controversies have given way once more to actual golf, the tournament represents an important stepping-stone for two big weeks to come.

The fourth major of the year, the USPGA at Valhalla, takes place next week and the NEC World Invitational the week after. Both locations, in Kentucky and Ohio, will be sweltering and fitness will be a key factor. Typically, Montgomerie has not embarked on a fitness kick just because a certain American - it is best not to use the name directly in front of the European No 1 - is the fittest as well as the best player on the circuit.

"No, all I can do is control myself," he said. "I was fit enough but I want to get fitter. I decided you don't have to be overweight if you don't want to be and wanted to do something about it. I was probably not giving myself every chance when I was slightly heavier but I am not doing it just for golf but for my own self-esteem. It's good that people notice. It makes me feel better about myself and gives me confidence.

"It is amazing how the weight falls off when you eat sensibly and exercise. I have a personal trainer who comes round at seven every morning. I'm not hitting it any longer but I'm not any shorter, either."

He is still some way from passing for a jockey but perhaps he has an eye on a special prize at Woburn. Any player who makes an albatross at the par-five 18th this week will win a year's ownership of a racehorse, and he will be able to name the chestnut filly, trained at Wetherby by Robin Bastiman, prior to her running as a three-year-old on the flat next season. The £35,000 prize went unclaimed last year, although the tournament winner, Bob May, received compensation for making an albatross on the long 10th by being given ownership for a day.

Bastiman said: "The filly is half-sister to Maronito, whom I also train and who won first time out last year, so there is a good family history."

Montgomerie, meanwhile, has been third and second in his last two outings on the Duke's Course but this will be his last opportunity to savour the tightly tree-lined layout before the event moves to the newly opened Marquess Course. It has had rave reviews and the European Tour were keen to switch this time but the club was adamant it needed to mature for another year.

There are 12 players in the field who will be flying off to Louisville on Monday but the sponsors have been slightly unfortunate to be moved into the slot before an American major in the second year of their contract.

Although Montgomerie, who was third at Loch Lomond prior to the Open, is happy to play his way into a major, both Lee Westwood, last week's winner in Sweden and leader of the order of merit, and Darren Clarke are flying out early to the States.

Another sponsor, Standard Life, has decided not to renew its contract after three years at Loch Lomond. The club hopes to retain the date ahead of the Open although Celtic Manor is also keen on the same week.

The incentive this week for Ian Woosnam and Bernhard Langer is to play their way into the £3m NEC event at Firestone, the top 12 from the money list qualifying on Sunday night. Woosnam is 13th, just behind Mathias Gronberg, but Langer has ground to make up from 18th place.

Woosnam will remain as Sam Torrance's sole official Ryder Cup vice-captain after the resignation last week of Mark James as his other assistant following the publication of his book and the subsequent row with Nick Faldo. "There certainly isn't going to be a replacement for Mark," Torrance said. "There will be plenty of people around to help out. It should never have happened but I am just glad it is all resolved. I was only on the practice range briefly but 15 people must have come up and said they were sorry what happened to Mark."

Montgomerie added: "I felt for Sam that he should end up in the middle of it all and I'm glad for his sake it has been resolved. The qualifying starts next month and it is important there is some stability before then. But Mark was an excellent captain and I'm sorry for him."

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