Montgomerie on the right track

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The Independent Online
Without the aid of electronic enhancement, you would not have heard Colin Montgomerie at all. The more he was drowned out by the crashing canvas of the press centre, the bigger his smile became. "The breeze is picking up," he said. "The scores will rise. I'm glad I took advantage.''

Conditions were not as easy as when Montgomerie broke the course record here with a 64 in the opening round of last year's Scottish Open, giving his two-under 70 yesterday equal value in his opinion. "It was important not to drop a shot and that fact makes it as good a round as last year's," Montgomerie said. It put him at the top of the leaderboard alongside Ian Woosnam.

After last week, when he battled amateur photographers but went on to win the Irish Open, Montgomerie is determined to be happy in his workplace. Carnoustie, which will host the Open again after a 24-year break in 1999, got full marks. "The course is in the best condition for a links I have ever witnessed. It is as good as any on the Open rota, if not the best of the lot. Nothing detrimental could be said about it. It is a true championship test.''

Woosnam, who bogeyed the last two holes, could not wholly concur, voicing his usual complaint about the bunkers. "This does not seem like links sand," he said. Wayne Riley, who shot a 74 in the defence of his title, was more irritated by the people who went in the bunkers. At the last, his ball finished in a hoofprint in a greenside bunker and after playing out, he launched his club at the bunker face. Then the Australian launched into an attack on those players whose bagperson is more their partner in life than in golf, describing them as "pathetic people with pathetic caddies". "The raking was an absolute disgrace," he added.

It was a fairway trap that caught Woosnam's three-wood tee-shot at the last. "I nearly shanked it," he said. After a year with the coach Bill Ferguson, his driving still remains a problem. It took Ferguson 20 minutes on Tuesday evening to sort out that part of Montgomerie's game. "He told me to hit it, to make a positive pass at the ball. I was steering it.''

Scores under par were a rarity and that Carl Mason shot 72 was due to dropping three shots in the last two holes. Mason, the winner two years ago at Gleneagles, hurt his back in March getting out of his car and 12 weeks ago had a slow-release epidural injection. "It is meant to last 12 weeks and I hope the problem has cured itself in that time," Mason said. "For three weeks I could not walk more than 20 yards, and I didn't play golf for five weeks, the longest spell in my life."

None of the visiting Americans finished under par, especially not the amateur Tiger Woods, who shot 81. The man who finished fourth as an amateur last year, Gordon Sherry, had to withdraw before his round after physiotherapy for a pulled neck muscle failed and he was unable to swing a club. "This is a horrendous thing to happen, this week of all weeks," Sherry said. He is hoping the problem will clear up in time for him to play in the Open qualifying at Formby on Sunday.

SCOTTISH OPEN (Carnoustie) Leading first-round scores: (GB or Irl unless stated): 70 C Montgomerie, I Woosnam. 71 J Rivero (Spain), P Lawrie, D J Russell, R Allenby (Aus), P Broadhurst. 72 M Mackenzie, J Townsend (US), J Coceres (Arg), R Claydon, P Goydos (US), B Estes (US), D Borrego (Sp), S Richardson, P Moloney (Aus), C Mason, A Collison. 73 R Drummond, K Eriksson (Swe), S Cage, P Senior (Aus), M Roe, P O'Malley (Aus), L Westwood. 74 T Gogele (Ger), D Gilford, W Riley (Aus), S Ames (Trin), D Feherty, M James, D Cooper, R Boxall, O Karlsson (Swe), M McLean, P Price, S Grappasonni (It), J Parnevik (Swe), G Brand Jnr, A Coltart, P Baker, S Tinning (Den). 75 M Hallberg (Swe), D Smyth, D Hospital (Sp), R Goosen (SA), D Curry, A Tait, C Suneson (Sp), N Briggs, R Karlsson (Swe), P Mitchell, P McGinley, P Sjoland (Swe), G Emerson. Selected: 76 S Torrance, C Rocca (It). 82 S Bottomley,