Lee Westwood is looking good to make instant amends this weekend for his US Open near-miss – and to give himself the perfect boost ahead of The Open.
But look who is alongside him halfway through the French Open at Le Golf National near Paris. None other than Colin Montgomerie.
Six months into a year which has seen him fall out of the world’s top 100 for the first time since 1990, Montgomerie birdied the final two holes of his second round to join Westwood on five-under-par, just two behind Spanish rookie Pablo Larrazabal.
Montgomerie hit a five-iron to four feet, then an eight-iron over water to seven feet to finish in real style and when asked about his chances of a 32nd European Tour win on Sunday said: “Very good. If I can be patient I have a chance.
“I had 16 holes of utter, utter frustration and I hate to say the birdies were deserved, but the way I played that was the minimum I deserved.
“It was as good as I can play tee-to-green. It was back to the way I won tournaments.”
Westwood has also been easy to spot on the opening two days. He was the another standing on the fairway while others almost literally disappeared into the hay.
“I don’t think I’ve seen rough as bad as this since Carnoustie in 1999 – it’s chest-high at points,” said the former European number one.
Westwood could be back at the top of the Order of Merit on Sunday night – and would have been if he had triumphed at Torrey Pines two weeks ago rather than finishing one behind Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate.
“I’m constantly being told ’well played’ this week, but while that’s great and nice to hear sometimes you want to forget about and concentrate on the French Open.
“It looks like a great result to everyone else (it was his best major), but at the same time it wasn’t a win, so it is always in the back of your mind that you didn’t win it.”
Westwood, in fact, has yet to lift a trophy this year, but his confidence is sky-high and it went up another notch with his bogey-free second round.
“I’ve managed to stay well away from the rough and that’s the key around here. I’m all for long rough, but there are a couple of places where it is only four yards off the fairway.
“I think that’s a bit severe, but with the course firm and bouncy it’s almost like playing a links and great practice for The Open.”
Qualifier Larrazabal, one in front after his opening 65 and in the first group out at 7.30am, stretched his lead to four before bogeying the 16th and 17th for a 70.
“They are the big stars and I am the rookie,” said the world number 481. “To know that I can play like them is great for me, very positive.”
Last year’s US Open champion Angel Cabrera was joint leader until he lost a ball on the 17th and double-bogeyed, while Larrazabal’s fellow countryman Ignacio Garrido moved alongside him on seven under as well before bogeying the 15th late in the day.
Dubliner Peter Lawrie was alongside Westwood, Montgomerie and Cabrera in the clubhouse, while England’s David Lynn was on the same mark with four still to play.
Dutchman Robert-Jan Derksen and Thai Chapchai Nirat both had holes-in-one, but because Derksen’s came at the 175-yard 16th rather than 210-yard second he was the one to win a BMW car. He still missed the cut, however.