Montgomerie lurks with intent

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reports from Dubai

It has taken just two days for the name of Colin Montgomerie to lurk menacingly on the leader board. The fact that he is tied for second place (alongside Jay Townsend) will make Miguel Jimenez's four-shot lead appear, rather like the Scotsman himself, less weighty than it otherwise would.

Jimenez and Montgomerie both shot 68s in the second round of the Dubai Desert Classic yesterday, but the Spaniard's 13-under 131 score is no guarantee of victory. Montgomerie was on the same mark at half-way last year, only to lose by three to Fred Couples.

Couples can do unwriteable things to the species of complete sentences, but the odd phrase hits the mark. "Colin is always semi-impressive," he said. "Today was pretty impressive. He looked like he had been playing [regularly]."

This is the European No 1's first event of the year. "It is beyond my expectations to be in contention, but I haven't had a challenge for three months and I'm quite confident for the weekend," Montgomerie said. "I have missed the competition. I'd be competitive in any business. I'm fortunate to have found a career where the rewards satisfy my competitive nature."

Of his five birdies, the one at the par-five 13th was the result of deliberately hitting a two-iron into a greenside bunker and then splashing out to four feet. Today, a tradition, that has seen Montgomerie and Couples paired together for six successive rounds, will be broken. The American had a chance to get to nine under and continue the run, that started at last year's tournament, with an eagle at the last.

Couples had a three-wood shot from 221 yards over water and tried to hit a high cut into the wind. "If I had hit that anywhere but in the water, it would have been a good day," he said. With his next ball, he hit a wedge shot to four feet but missed the putt. A bogey left him on six under, level with Ian Woosnam.

Jimenez, in telephonic communication with his brother and coach Juan back in Torrequebrada, had birdies at the first three holes to open up his lead. He missed four good chances on the back nine but was unconcerned. "I left a few birdies on the course, but if I continue to play like this, I've got a chance," he said.

After being one behind overnight, Townsend, could not keep pace with a 71. Even if he wins the huge tea urn trophy, his luggage will not be the 100 kilos overweight it was when leaving the South African leg of the tour. After a week's holiday hunting on the bushveld, the heads of a water buck and a wildebeest were in transport to his local Florida taxidermist.

Still with us for the weekend is Seve Ballesteros. The out-of-sorts Spaniard, who bogeyed the last two holes on Thursday, finished with two birdies yesterday to have the luxury of making the cut with a shot to spare.