Colin Montgomerie hopes he is on his way back to the top – and is determined to appreciate it much more the second time around.
Montgomerie was scheduled to face Stewart Cink in the second round of the Accenture Matchplay Championship today, weather permitting, after his thrilling victory over Nick Price yesterday.
The Scot came back from two down with three to play to beat Price at the second extra hole at La Costa, boosting his chances of climbing back into the top 50 in the world rankings.
The former world number two began the week in 57th in the current standings, outside the all-important top 50 which guarantees entry into major championships and the biggest and most lucrative events.
As things stand, the 40-year-old is not even exempt for this year’s Open Championship at his home course of Royal Troon, or the US Open he came so close to winning on three occasions.
But a few more victories this week in the €5.5m event would at least halt his slide down the rankings and get him back within sight of the top 50.
And if Montgomerie succeeds in getting back somewhere near his considerable peak, he insists he will appreciate it more than his heyday in the 1990s when he wishes he celebrated his numerous victories more.
“You don’t appreciate anything until you don’t have it anymore,” a reflective Montgomerie said. “If I take away your car, you would appreciate the old one wouldn’t you?
“And I am the same. It was easy, I turned up, won, finished second or third and went home again. Now it’s more of a grind, it’s hard work.
“I have often said that if I happen to win another Order of Merit now, then it will be worth more than all seven put together. It was easy then. It would be a fantastic achievement if I can do something on that scale again.”
Montgomerie, who has been noticeably relaxed this week despite his late arrival from Malaysia, added: “I am more confident in myself, I have been through quite a bit recently. Win, lose or draw I am more comfortable with myself.
“I am happier with everything around now, and if that’s showing, that’s good. I don’t want to go into it but there were all sorts of problems – marital problems and health of children, and all that has sorted out so golf takes on a whole different meaning.”
Montgomerie was not the only player who needed extra holes to book his place in the last 32, which was scheduled to take place today if the forecast heavy rain did not intervene.
Former champion Darren Clarke produced a spectacular finish before surviving the second longest match in the event’s short history.
Clarke birdied the 16th and then chipped in for an eagle three on the 18th to take his first round tie with Eduardo Romero into extra holes.
And the Ulsterman eventually booked his place in the second round on the 25th hole when the veteran Argentine Romero found trouble off the tee and was unable to match his par four.
Only Mike Weir’s win on the 26th hole against Loren Roberts last year took longer to complete. Clarke now faces Germany’s Alex Cejka in round two.
England’s Paul Casey was not so lucky however, missing from inside three feet to lose out on the 21st hole to USPGA champion Shaun Micheel, who had earlier holed from 30ft on the 17th to force sudden death.
Padraig Harrington moved safely through to the last 32 – to face Bob Estes – for only the second time in five attempts after a 2&1 victory over Toshi Izawa, but Lee Westwood went down to a revitalised Phil Mickelson.
There were mixed results for close friends Ian Poulter and Justin Rose, Poulter making a winning debut with a one hole victory over Chris Riley but Rose crashing out 5&4 at the hands of Australian Stuart Appleby. Poulter takes on Duffy Waldorf today.
Londoner Brian Davis lost 3&2 to Robert Allenby on his debut and Wales’ Phil Price was hammered 6&4 by Sweden’s Fredrik Jacobson, who will face Thomas Bjorn in the second round after the Open runner-up saw off Scott Hoch 4&3.
Defending champion and top seed Tiger Woods scraped through to the second round with a last hole victory over compatriot John Rollins.
Two down with six to play, Woods was gifted the 13th and 17th when Rollins bogeyed, and then birdied the last when he had two putts to win as Rollins fluffed a bunker shot to record another bogey.
Woods is unlucky to receive such generosity from his second round opponent, South African Trevor Immelman, who claims he is ready to handle all the attention that comes from playing the world number one.
Immelman said: “I have put up with all that before so I know what to expect. I am looking forward to it. I have always got on with Tiger.
“I have a lot of respect for him and what he has achieved in the game but I will be going out there and trying my heart out.”