Montgomerie's French therapy

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The Independent Online
Colin Montgomerie returns to action in the pounds 600,000 Peugeot French Open at Le Golf National near Paris today trying to forget his near-miss in the US Open a fortnight ago.

However, the world No 3 is determined to think positively and is using this week's tournament as a stepping stone for the Open championship at Royal Troon in three weeks' time. Montgomerie, beaten by one shot by the new world No 1, Ernie Els, at the Congressional, knows that the pressure will be on him even more at the course where his father is secretary.

"I've been looking forward to it since it was announced as the venue about six years ago," he said. "If I'd won at Congressional I could have relaxed, but because I went so close again at the US Open I'll be under an even bigger spotlight now. There will be so much attention off the course that my best peace will be the five hours on it each day."

Montgomerie's Open record is dismal to say the least - four missed cuts in the last five years - but he is determined to put that right. He flew up for an early look at Troon last week. "That's the first time I've done that for an Open. I've played the course over 100 times, but what I'll have is local support more than local knowledge. The rough has grown and it will be a demanding test. The more demanding the better from my point of view. I tried to tell the greenkeeper that the fairways were a bit wide in places, but he answers to the R&A, not me."

The Scot shed tears after bogeying the 71st hole to lose to Els, the man who also beat him in a play-off for the 1994 US Open, and has spent hours thinking about it since. "It was galling to come so close again. They say you have to lose a few, but I think I've paid my dues now. I hope that next time I'm in contention somebody makes a mistake and I win."

One player who has not just one, but two, majors to his name - albeit a long time ago - makes his first European appearance of the season. Sandy Lyle, winner of the Open in 1985 and the US Masters in 1987, is based now on the US Tour, but is currently outside their top 120. "My exemption in America is for one more year, but if things don't work out I'll have to think again," he said.

A Lyle victory this weekend would not only revive his career but also throw his hat into the Ryder Cup ring, with just 10 qualifying events to go. The first prize is pounds 100,000, and Lyle does at least have happier memories of Le Golf National than Montgomerie. He finished 39th last year, and Montgomerie missed the cut.

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