Monty takes pitch and putt course

The world No 2 is honing his short game for the long march towards his first major. Andy Farrell reports from Augusta
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The Independent Online
Colin Montgomerie has not always scored well at Augusta National, but he has always eaten well. The new diet has put an end to that. "It's a shame. I used to have some lovely junior club sandwiches at this golf club but I'm not allowed them any more.

"Now I am eating a very light breakfast, then I have a salad and a non- fat dinner. I cut out anything that contains the word fried or fat. I have been in the States for three weeks and it is more difficult over here. The food here is more full of fat than at home. You have got to be disciplined and I have been since I have been here."

The European No 1 is now 40lb lighter than at the beginning of the year. Now he is on the greens in the restaurant, he is seeking the same discipline on those out on the course. Firm, fast and severely sloping, they are far less palatable. "I would not like them any quicker or the undulations any steeper," Montgomerie said. "They are on the limit of being playable."

Montgomerie's performance on the greens has been the root cause of his results in four previous US Masters. Last year, when he recorded his best finish of tied 17th, the Scot broke 70 for the first time. The second of his two 69s still contained four putts at the 14th.

"The one thing that has bothered me in the past here is the putting. There are occasions when you just have to be brave and hit the ball a bit harder, otherwise the ball won't hold its line and go in the hole. There are putts that need to be hit positively. You can't worry about the one coming back. If you do, you have already missed the first one."

Knowing that the greens will only get harder and faster by the weekend, Montgomerie has played just 27 holes in practice before today's first round, instead concentrating on chipping and putting. That aspect of his game has already been shown to be working well as he won the Dubai Classic and finished second in the US Players' Championship two weeks ago.

Having risen to No 2 in the world, behind Greg Norman, a major is Montgomerie's obvious priority. Golfers tend to subscribe to the view that the dues have to be paid first. Monty has paid out a pretty mint: third in the '92 US Open, and lost playoffs for the '94 US Open and last year's USPGA at Riviera.

"They always say you've got to lose one before you win one," he said. "I have had three real close calls. That is more than some have had before they have won. In major championships it is limiting the mistakes that counts. At Riviera I managed to birdie the last three holes to get into that play-off, and that's what I was able to take as a positive from that."

It is Monty's conviction that he is best suited to the US Open and USPGA, but that does not stop him denouncing suggestions, even if they were uttered by himself in the past, that he does not have the game for Augusta. His left-to-right fade should not suit the many holes that dogleg from right to left.

"That's pure myth. There is only one shot you need to hook or draw and that's on the 13th. The rest of them, a straight shot is fine. One hole in particular suits my game and that is 18. I can close my eyes and hit it on the fairway there.

"This course is a matter of playing chess, working out your course management. Where do we go? Where don't we go? When do we go for it? It's up to myself and my caddie to work it out. We know what to do now. It's just whether we are able to do that under the pressure and I think we are better equipped than ever before. I am fortunate in that I tend to play better when there is a bit of pressure."

One man who believes the 32-year-old Scot can win is Ely Callaway, whose clubs Montgomerie is hitting further and higher than at any other time. "He sent me a letter congratulating me on my second at the Players and the PS said you can win at Augusta. The can was underlined. That meant a lot to me."

It is just another factor in making Montgomerie "as confident as I have ever been". The only time he stumbled yesterday was when asked whether he had dreamed of donning a Green Jacket. Pause. Then: "Doesn't every golfer think of holding the Open claret jug or putting on a Green Jacket?" Few have as good a chance of doing so this week than Montgomerie.

CARD OF THE COURSE

Hole Yards Par Hole Yards Par

1 400 4 10 485 5

2 555 5 11 455 3

3 360 4 12 155 4

4 205 3 13 485 5

5 435 4 14 405 3

6 180 3 15 500 4

7 360 4 16 170 4

8 535 5 17 400 4

9 435 4 18 405 4

Out 3,465 36 In 3,460 36

Total 6,925yds

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