Montgomerie's campaign secures course record

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The Independent Online

Last Sunday Colin Montgomerie, who had hired a private jet to play in the Murphy's Irish Open, offered Sam Torrance a lift to London. Then he had to wait at the airport at Waterford while Torrance went into a play-off at Mount Juliet before winning the championship.

Considering Monty's mood, and the fact that at times of intense disappointment he has been known to eject teddy out of the pram, Torrance would have been advised to take a parachute on board.

Montgomerie led going into the final round in Co Kilkenny but a 73 dropped him to joint fourth. "I had the tournament in my hands and threw it away," he said. "It was a very weak effort indeed."

Yesterday he was back on top of the leaderboard, setting a course record of 64 in the first round of the Scottish Open. That was 17 shots better than Seve Ballesteros who goes into the Open at St Andrews next week with his game in disarray. He has missed the half-way cut in his last three tournaments and, at nine over par, will have to pull something out of the hat if he is to avoid the guillotine today.

Carnoustie, back on the Royal and Ancient's Open rota after being out of favour for 20 years, was described by Nick Faldo on Tuesday as a "tough brute" but that was when the Firth of Tay was whipped into life by a strong wind. Overnight rain softened the course and when Montgomerie teed off yesterday morning the links were becalmed and vulnerable. "I will never play the course in easier conditions," Monty said. "Someone was going to score 64 and I'm just glad it was me."

At eight under par, Montgomerie leads by two strokes from Ian Woosnam, Michael Campbell and Wayne Riley. It would have been even more impressive but for missed putts from six feet at the sixth and five feet at the 16th. "It was almost perfect," Montgomerie said. No Scotsman has ever won the Scottish Open although three years ago at Gleneagles Big Monty, wearing a startling blue and white sweater with the cross of St Andrews emblazoned on his chest, was denied over the closing holes by the Australian Peter O'Malley who suddenly began to play as if he was a member of the magic circle.

Torrance, who finished in 19th place here in the Open 20 years ago, is not averse to celebrating any victory in prolonged style, but he was back at work yesterday, compiling a 69. "I could have gone on the sauce from Sunday to Sunday but this tournament is too important," he said. Woosnam, one of his playing partners, picked up three strokes in the final two holes.

The Welshman, who has his own jet, may not need to thumb lifts from Monty but he has felt the need to borrow the Scotsman's coach, Bill Ferguson. Since the Irish Open Ferguson has adjusted Monty's grip and he has done a lot more to Woosnam. Ferguson, who is based in Ilkley in Yorkshire, visited Woosnam in Jersey and has helped to redesign his swing.

The trouble is the new style does not agree with Woosnam's back. "I'm hitting some great shots but I'm also feeling a sharp pain," he said. "maybe it's because I'm using different muscles."

The Scottish Open failed to get Tom Watson, who won the Open at Carnoustie in 1975, and Gary Player, who won here in 1968. Player, who played a part in resurrecting Carnoustie's fortunes, said he would appear for $50,000, half his normal fee. The organisers said thanks but no thanks.

Scores, Sporting Digest,

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