Sorry end for 'The Half Monty'

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The Independent Online

All Colin Montgomerie took away from the Open here was that burdensome tag of being known as perhaps the best golfer never to win a major championship. The quest continues. Another failure, the years rolling by, perhaps too many now. This was supposed to be his time, a time of fulfilment. Again it didn't happen.

Thinking back to his first round, when he began with two birdies and looked more at ease with himself in a major championship than anyone could remember, Montgomerie's target was to make up ground on the front nine and then protect his score over the closing five holes. A double- bogey at the 13th on Saturday had disappointed his many supporters but they were out in force, crowding around the first green and standing six or seven deep up along the left-hand side of the second fairway.

The wind had freshened, not enough to cause the players a great deal of concern but nevertheless an additional problem in matters of line and club selection. When Montgomerie felt a touch of the breeze he grimaced and took an extra practice swing, but his shot to the par-three first safely found the green and the gallery groaned when a putt from 15 feet just slipped past.

The demons were lurking.

Making his way to second tee together with Ernie Els, who was himself well in contention at four under, Montgomerie could not have failed to notice the exhortation emblazoned in large letters on a cloak worn by one of his fans ­ "Give It The Full Monty". It wasn't clear whether Montgomerie was being implored to remove his trousers or lay the Lytham links bare but we can assume that he took it to mean the latter.

The Scot tapped in for par at the second, but there was to be no surge up the leaderboard. He was off line at the third, losing it to the breeze and a missed putt from five feet cost him a shot. Where his putting stroke was smooth on the opening day, enabling him to make a number of difficult saves, it had become jerky over the weekend causing his ball to jump from the putter head. Certainly, Montgomerie didn't look confident over the ball and the shorter putts appeared to be giving him trouble. "A great putter who talks himself into being a bad putter," somebody said.

By the time Montgomerie reached the par-three fifth he had let a couple of birdie chances slip away and he fell back to four under after failing to get up and down from sand. A forward move was essential and hopes were raised when he took advantage of the par-fives at six and seven, eventually turning in 35, back to five under.

The sounds of an Open championship could be heard on the breeze, indicating that plenty was happening elsewhere and when there was sight of a leaderboard, Montgomerie could see that others were taking advantage of fairly benign conditions.

This had a perceptible effect on Montgomerie's demeanour, his body language suggesting that the cause was lost, which it almost certainly was when he dropped another shot at the par-four fifth. He could still hear shouts of encouragement, banners bearing his name were still there but his progress no longer attracted the same attention. Pars at the 11th and 12th were followed by the posting of another red figure against Montgomerie's name at the next but everybody realised by then that it wasn't going to happen.

The cheer that went up when Montgomerie chipped in from a bunker to par the 17th was a sympathetic response to yet another failure in a major championship and on hearing it his shoulders slumped in resignation. He'd given everything, briefly held the lead and been in contention until the final day, even suggested that a more relaxed air might be permanent.

Things, however, hadn't gone for him. Few players started a major championship with more support, not only from the galleries but people in golf who recognise the great contribution Montgomerie has made to the game and believe that he is long overdue that elusive first major.

Whatever Montgomerie was feeling inside he didn't let any of it out apart from expressing disgust with his putting. "The simple answer is that I didn't putt well," he said. "I twice three-putted early on, shots thrown away that could have made all the difference when I needed impetus. I had birdie chances at eight and eleven. Didn't make them."

Montgomerie went back to his penultimate shot on Friday. Felt his failure to make birdie at the 18th was ominous. "When I missed that one the writing was on the wall," he said. "It undermined my confidence." No wonder he didn't come through. All in his mind, you see.