Medium-size Monty in good shape

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The Independent Online


reports from Dubai

Colin Montgomerie, the three-times winner of the Order of Merit, has a car for each year he has been European No 1 and a triple-sized garage to match. But the Audi A8 and the Mercedes estate have been left out in the cold. Only the Porsche has escaped the sleet and snow. The rest of the garage is taken up with an exercise bike, running machine, rowing machine and multi-gym.

"I've lost over two stones," said the not so Big Monty as he prepared for his first tournament of the year, the Dubai Desert Classic, here. He has worked out daily since early January and is "eating sensibly". In the official Tour guide, he is listed as weighing 15st. "I don't know where they got that from. It's not correct," he said.

"I still want to lose another half-stone. I didn't do it to aid my golf, I've done it for my own well-being and satisfaction. It's nice when people come up to you and say you look fitter. I feel fitter and stronger."

The Montgomerie waist size has gone down from 40 to 36. David Leadbetter, Nick Faldo's coach, has been among those to suggest that Montgomerie could earn even more pounds in his wallet (he won a record pounds 835,051 in Europe last year) if he took a few off his ample frame. Monty did not agree then, and he does not agree now. "I've sweated my way through US Opens and US PGAs, but I proved at Riviera last year that I could play golf while being overweight," he said.

Montgomerie tied for the US PGA Championship last year before losing a sudden-death play-off to Steve Elkington. In '94 he lost in an 18-hole play-off, eventually won by Ernie Els, at the US Open. A major championship is top of his wish list. "To reach fourth in the world without winning a major proves I'm consistent on my home tour, but I'm looking to win a major. I'm positive that I can go that one step further. One shot is all that it is."

A wrist injury that flared up at the end of last season has been cured with rest, and along with his greater flexibility, has helped him complete the backswing. "That has always been my fault. Now I get my hands higher and I'm hitting my irons better," Montgomerie said.

During a near three-month break, his second daughter, Venetia, was born and Montgomerie had a glimpse of life at home. "I saw my brother working hard, and my father working hard and experienced the traffic driving my elder daughter to kindergarten. We are fortunate to be in a profession to afford to take three months off at the age of 32."

The Scot faces 10 other Ryder Cup players here, nine from Europe plus the American Fred Couples, the defending champion. However, one of the Ryder men, the accident-prone Sam Torrance, is struggling with a tendon injury caused when his ankle twisted while manoeuvring an airport trolley up a kerb.

Montgomerie's first task is to catch up the pounds 211,005 already won by Ian Woosnam. The Welshman is in confident mood after two wins, and a fifth place in Morocco last week.