Oldcorn makes hay in the rough

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If Colin Montgomerie was, to a certain extent, hoist by his own pet project, the feeling in the locker room yesterday was probably: serves him right. Monty had been brought in to defend the fort for the Alamo English Open and he suffered at his own hands with a 75. This was like the pre-diet Monty of old: chips with everything.

With the rough grown to an intimidating length and the greens as dodgy as anything that supper had to offer in Tom Brown's schooldays, Montgomerie had said that accurate driving was of paramount importance. In fact, his driving was fine but his short game was wretched. "I just had a bad day," Monty said. "I am not out of this by any means."

Montgomerie has signed a contract with Marriott, which owns the Forest of Arden course and hotel, and it simply would not do for the world No3 to miss the halfway cut and check out of his suite tonight.

"Three rounds of 68 would do it. I'm playing well enough," Monty said.

Montgomerie, in partnership with Michael King, has deliberately made the course more difficult to prepare himself, and seven other Europeans here, for the US Open in Detroit next week. From tee to green conditions might well be, well, not dissimilar to those found in Michigan but the trouble is that they may as well be putting on Mars. "It's a shame the greens aren't up to the quality of the rest of the course," Monty said. "Maybe next year we can get it right."

Montgomerie had a torrid time from the sixth hole where he missed the green to the right, played a poor chip and missed a seven-foot putt for a double-bogey six. He followed that with a bogey six, a bogey four, and a bogey five to go to the turn in 40. At that point seasoned Monty observers were anticipating the prospect of seeing Paddington Bear in orbit but the Scotsman, despite being hot, bothered and frustrated, kept a cool head.

At the par-five 17th he chipped in for an eagle three. Prior to that his chipping had been hopeless. "I had six attempts to get up and down, failed with every one of them and that is where my round of golf went," he said.

Monty is nine strokes behind Andrew Oldcorn, who benefited from an early start. "The greens deteriorated through the day," Monty said, eschewing a negative thought.

Oldcorn, an Englishman who lives in Scotland and has picked up the Edinburgh burr, sounded like a golfer who has been stranded on a desert island with a psychologist. "I have not been playing too badly but my mental performances have been pathetic the last six weeks and my confidence was low because I was under-achieving," Oldcorn said. He has made one halfway cut out of his last five appearances.

"I've had trouble motivating myself, but I don't know why. It's as if I've been playing in a daze. I needed a kick up the backside and I got that from a few people at the weekend. I needed to change my attitude. I was particularly unpleasant to my caddie."

If any professional golfer is short of a teddy to throw out of the pram, then the caddie is the next best victim. "He's still with me," Oldcorn said of his bagman, John Lawlor. "I was just bad tempered. I was not trying. It was like being in a car with your foot on the accelerator and nothing was happening."

Yesterday Montgomerie knew the feeling but the difference between him and Oldcorn is that only the latter would admit it.

Scores, Sporting Digest, page 23