O'Malley back to haunt Big Monty

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While the majority were sweating on the half-way cut, Peter O'Malley established a substantial lead after the second round of the Benson and Hedges International Open yesterday. The Australian with Irish ancestors (he thinks they come from Cork but he's not sure) and a home in Berkshire somehow equalled the course record of 65 and he could afford to be generous.

O'Malley, however, got quite carried away. "It didn't affect Colin Montgomerie's career that I beat him at Gleneagles. He has gone on to greater things and has turned out to be a fantastic player. Any time you can beat Colin you know you're not going to be far away." O'Malley, who was something like 2,000-1 at Gleneagles three years ago, deprived Montgomerie of the Scottish Open by finishing eagle, birdie, birdie, birdie, eagle. When he rang home to tell them the good news they didn't believe it.

"I get on a streak sometimes," O'Malley said. He has won nothing since that hot streak in Scotland and Montgomerie can console himself that, whatever happens over the weekend, O'Malley will not take seven shots off this course over the last five holes. Gleneagles is almost pitch and putt compared to St Mellion.

The number of players under par can be counted on two hands and O'Malley, on 11 under, leads by five strokes from Montgomerie and by six from Mark James. The rain relented yesterday but the wind did not, and out of a sea of blue figures signifying scores above par, O'Malley's score was remarkable. In previous appearances here he was 62 over par for 12 rounds. He has only made the cut once, when he was eight over par in 1992.

"That was a tremendous effort," Big Monty said of O'Malley's score. "He's not frightened to go low. Some people are. When he gets on a roll he keeps on a roll. Everyone has a comfort zone. Sometimes they get to 9 or 10 under and they think that's good enough, thank you. They want to get off before they make a mistake. O'Malley's different. He wants to keep going."

On a day when David Gilford shot 82, O'Malley had nine birdies, two bogeys. He's using a new putter, a Fat Lady, and as good as she's been, his driver has been even better. In two rounds, O'Malley has missed one fairway. "I think I probably lived off Gleneagles a bit," he said. "I probably expected a bit too much."

Today, O'Malley will partner Montgomerie, who was six strokes ahead of the Australian with five holes to play in that bizarre climax at Gleneagles. "Thirty-six holes around here is an awful long time," Big Monty said. "Every time the Scottish Open comes round I think about him." In a round of 71 yesterday Monty had birdies at the four par-fives, and needed to after taking bogeys at the third, fourth and fifth.

James, who shot 68, finished bogey, bogey. At the last he chipped eight feet past the flag and missed the putt. He looked distraught. James has resorted to using the long, pendulum putter. "It's turned me into an average putter which is a step forward for me," he said.

A five at the 18th is almost respectable. Eamonn Darcy described the hole as a "bitch". Darcy, in fact, played it beautifully, hitting a five- iron approach to within three feet of the pin and he made the putt for a birdie three. "The course is an animal," the Irishman said. "If you try to steer it around you'll end up in a straitjacket."

Darcy is one of only 10 players under par. Seve Ballesteros, the defending champion, made the cut, just, following a 76 which left him at four over par for the championship. In the first round Ballesteros took four putts at the fifth, and yesterday he was in trouble at the sixth where he hit a three-iron into a ditch on the right and it cost him a double-bogey six.

Robert Allenby would have settled for that. Allenby, who won the Australian Open Championship last November, had birdies at the second, third and fourth holes and a nine at the sixth. Five over par for one hole, he ended up seven over for the tournament and missed the cut by two strokes. It may have been cold and it may have been blustery, but the weather was considerably kinder than in 1991 when the cut was made at 12 over par.

"It was a very unpleasant day to play golf," Ballesteros said. "I was very impressed with O'Malley's round. It looks like he was playing on a computer rather than a golf course." Paul Broadhurst, who followed a 68 with a 77 - "I hit only two bad shots all day" - was similarly moved by O'Malley's performance. "What's he on?" he asked incredulously.

Photograph, page 45,

Scores, Sporting Digest, page 47