Local support for Montgomerie

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The Independent Online


reports from Carnoustie

The difference between Colin Montgomerie and Seve Ballesteros after the second round of the Scottish Open yesterday was 26 strokes, but Monty was lucky. When he hit a wayward shot, there was a spectator on hand to ferret about in search of the ball; when Ballesteros went off the straight and narrow, he suffered the ultimate punishment.

In the first round, the Span-iard lost a ball at the sixth and had a seven. Yesterday Monty, at the same hole, blocked his tee shot and then hit a three wood into a whin, which is Scottish for a particularly heathen type of bush. The time limit to find the ball is five minutes and Monty was approaching curfew (a no-whin situation), when a fearless spectator came to the rescue.

They found five, none of which were Monty's and perhaps one of which was Seve's. "It was a particularly prickly bush," Montgomerie said, "and I was bleeding. We had been looking for about four minutes when this spectator found it and he was only wearing a T-shirt. I don't know who he was, but I'm grateful."

After taking a penalty drop, Montgomerie escaped with a bogey six and admitted that but for the assistance of the mystery bloodhound he would have had a seven at the hole. Following his course record of 64 in the first round, Montgomerie had a 71 to stand at nine under par. "That's good golf," he said. "In the first round you made your own trouble, but yesterday there was enough breeze to cause trouble."

Montgomerie ended the day as joint leader with the Australian Wayne Riley, one in front of Katsuyoshi Tomori and three in front of Nick Faldo.

Ballesteros finished at 17 over par with an 80 in the second round, the second-worst aggregate in the tournament. Where, he was asked, does he go from here? "I'm going to lunch," he said. This was the fourth cut he has missed in a row. "I don't know where the ball's going," he said. "I'm trying to find something but it looks like I'm going backwards. I don't have any explanation. Everything feels awful."

At least he will have more time to prepare for next week's Open at St Andrews, where he won in 1984. "I'm sure I'll be able to break 80 there," he said. "It's a lot more open."

Faldo had six birdies and two bogeys in a round of 68 which, at six under for the tournament, moved him up into Montgomerie's shadow. Faldo, the winner of the Open at St Andrews five years ago, said that playing at Carnoustie provided him with "perfect preparation". "If the wind blows it will get seriously difficult," he said. "I like feeling the heat." Asked about the demise of Ballesteros, he said: "I feel for the guy. He's been working hard and getting nowhere."

While Faldo was warming to the links here, Ben Crenshaw and Davis Love III, winner and runner-up of the Masters at Augusta in April, were joining Ballesteros in a lost weekend. Crenshaw missed the cut at seven over and Love was at seven over when he retired after 13 holes.

However, Tiger Woods and Gordon Sherry, two amateurs with outstanding futures, stood at four under and one under respectively. These two will be on opposing sides in the Walker Cup match between GB and Ireland and the United States at Royal Porthcawl in September. The 19-year-old Woods dropped a shot at the 18th, but it gave him an opportunity to brush up on the vernacular. "I hit it in the wee burn," the American said.

At one point, Montgomerie relinquished the lead to Ian Woosnam, but a quadruple-bogey eight at the 12th stopped the Welshman in his tracks. The Scottish Open is desperate for a Scottish winner, and Big Monty, even if he is an Anglo-Scot, would do nicely. "My support increases as the expectation increases," he said. "They're also putting a bit of money on me." It's a fair bet that the man who found his ball has Monty's name on a betting slip.