Monty gives no quarter

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reports from Co Kildare

Bernard Gallacher, Europe's Ryder Cup captain, is not blameless despite leading Europe to victory over the US in Rochester last weekend. Perhaps influenced by a touch of Tartan nationalism, he paired Colin Montgomerie and Sam Torrance in the final series of fourballs and they were beaten 4 and 2. Big Monty and Swinging Sam may be Scots and they may have been team-mates in America but in Ireland for the Smurfit European Open they remain the deadliest of rivals. "He calls me No 2 all the time," Montgomerie said yesterday.

Montgomerie is No 2 in the Volvo Order of Merit, pounds 29,000 behind Torrance, but he could well win enough at the K Club here tomorrow to displace the leader. Yesterday Montgomerie shot 69 in the second round and at four under par for the tournament he is in joint second place, two strokes behind Barry Lane.

Torrance scored 73 to stand at two over. If Torrance dishes out a bit of stick, Big Monty dishes it back, complete with dessert. "Sam has never won the Order of Merit before," Montgomerie said. "I have never won it three times in a row before. I've got a bit of a deficit to make up and I'm working on it."

The Ryder Cup gang from Oak Hill are suffering, some more than others. "We are all very, very tired," Montgomerie said. "Sam's 42 and he must be as tired as I am. If I hadn't had a purpose I'd have taken the week off. I'm more mentally tired than anything else. I have difficulty lining up the putts, difficulty in concentrating."

Montgomerie admits to being "slightly overweight" but he has not joined Weight Watchers. "If it isn't bust I'm not going to fix it," he said. A weakness for any particular food? "All of it," he replied. "I have a weakness for all the wrong stuff."

Montgomerie had four birdies over an Arnold Palmer designed course that is as demanding as they come, especially with greens that one competitor said would not be suitable for staging the Irish St Leger. Michael Smurfit, one of Ireland's, if not Europe's, richest men, owns the K Club which also boasts a five-star hotel, more appropriately termed a country club.

It costs an arm and a leg to stay there but the major players, Big Monty included, are being put up, courtesy of the owner, with the most de luxe B and B Ireland has to offer. Montgomerie's round was only flawed by a six at the par-five 13th where he took three putts. "There were a couple of heel prints," he said, "and the ball spun right." Faced then with a putt from two and a half feet, his ball hit the right lip of the hole and refused to drop. "Okay," he said, "I was upset. The pins were tough."

Montgomerie was not about to criticise his host. Asked about the notorious greens, Montgomerie replied: "They're at the end of the fairways. I've talked to Dr Smurfit about them and he said he's going to do something." The ground staff put it down to the fact that the "grass is trying to go to winter and we're trying to keep it in summer." Whatever the reason, the greens are no man's land.

Torrance, in his round of 73, only had one blemish, a five at the 10th. The Order of Merit rivalry between the two has developed into one of the great confrontations of the season. When Torrance won the British Masters at Collingtree two weeks ago, Big Monty, in a car heading down the M1, heard Sam, on Radio 5, being congratulated. What struck Montgomerie was Torrance's reply: "For winning the tournament or being No 1."

Collingtree, for Domingo Hospital, almost led to intensive care. On the leaderboard, he would have won pounds 14,000 but was informed on the 14th hole of a two-stroke penalty incurred on the 11th where he tapped in a putt while being sheltered (illegally) by his caddie's umbrella. When Hospital, who is from Barcelona, finished his round he was so angry and confused he did not check his card.

His partner, Michael Campbell, marked him down for a four on the 16th instead of a five with the result that Hospital was disqualified for signing for the wrong score. Hospital, a former pilot, wears glasses which is the reason his caddie tends to shelter the spectacles from the elements. Yesterday Hospital had a hole in one at the 12th. Did he win a car or an ambulance? He won nothing. Had he got his ace at the 17th he would have won a Renault worth pounds 18,500. At least Hospital made the halfway cut which was set at four over par.