When Colin arrived for duty at 9.01 yesterday a courageous gallery assembled. There is something compelling about the man, rather like watching a McEnroe tennis match or Oliver Reed stumbling into a chat show. It would probably be quite annoying if Monty did not act up, and, with his great eagerness to please, he rarely disappoints.
It started early on yesterday when Monty complained about spectators taking photographs. Colin, it must be said, does not like cameras, or, more precisely, people with cameras. When you meet him the phrase you probably want to avoid is "say cheese". This was a theme Monty warmed to throughout yesterday's round without drowning us with his charm.
In television interviews the Scot can come across as a grandma's favourite, a sort of Michael Aspel of the links, but he addresses some in the gallery as you would the member of the household who dines on Pedigree Chum.
The circus woman who has knives and axes thrown at her probably trains by watching Monty. It is the supreme exercise for keeping body movement to a minimum, as you know a single facial twitch could send him into paroxysms of rage. Ideally, he would like his followers to resemble the terracotta army.
By 10.30 and the sixth, there was evidence that the sun was stronger than normal in this part of west Lancashire. "Come on Monty," said one spectator. "You're the colonel." Crowd support for Montgomerie was sporadic and delivered almost out of a sense of patriotic duty. It was embarrassingly tinny compared with the roars ahead for a failing Spaniard.
And on it went, the world No 2, who is aged 33 (and almost one month), displaying he can go one better when it comes to childish behaviour.
By the 15th Monty was a melancholy figure, sitting alone on a bench. After a moment's musing he jumped up and suggested people with lenses should be executed. Big Colin does not like the press much either and resents the fact they are allowed to share his side of the rope. He would rather see them dangling from it.
On the 16th green he found the television cameramen on a gantry too noisy, and after his tee shot on the following hole he caught yet another member of the public snapping him. "Well done," he said. "You can run away and hide now you've done it.''
When you are in the most prestigious tournament in the world, and chasing your first major, it seems a little odd to have the mind filled with fermenting bitterness about how beastly the press and public are. The poor chap is close to driving himself potty.
Given Monty's countenance it was particularly apt that he should be playing with David Frost. Other interesting partners for him this week could be Jim Payne, Curtis Strange, Jim Furyk and Domingo Hospital. As it was, the third man yesterday was Brad Faxon, who was rather puzzled by the pantomime being played out before him. "You would not want to be a fan carrying a camera [with Montogomerie around]," he said. "I get along with Monty and have no problems but it is as if he is happiest when he is telling someone off.''
Wearing a shirt the colour of weak tea and black trousers, Monty was sartorially uninspired and that was mirrored in his game. From tee to green he played beautifully, but a force field appeared to be around the hole when it came to putting.
At least the ensemble hangs rather better these days, however. Montgomerie lost over two stones for the start of the season and no longer returns to the clubhouse with tropical clothing stains when the thermometer rises. This weight reduction has done little to effect the yardage produced by his long, fluid, almost feminine swing, though this year he has developed a tendency, repeated once again yesterday, to begin tournaments with a lethargy which suggests he still has his pyjamas on.
The 18th rather capped it all, Montgomerie's drive trickling into a bunker, from where he took two shots to escape. When he made a driving wheel gesture to a face in the crowd it became clear the debriefing to his pals in the Fourth Estate was not to be extensive. "My longest putt was three feet today," he informed us after his 73. "You need a bit of good fortune out there and I didn't have any today. Perhaps I'll have some tomorrow.''
To be fair to Monty, it was a living hell at Royal Lytham yesterday. He had to endure clear, blue skies and the sight of butterflies flitting across the greens in the disturbing knowledge that if he wins this tournament they will make him take home pounds 200,000. At 1.47 this afternoon the struggle goes on.Reuse content