Monty back to his best

Colin Montgomerie insisted he was back to his best after following up his third-place finish in the French Open with a superb second round 64 at the European Open in Dublin.

Colin Montgomerie insisted he was back to his best after following up his third-place finish in the French Open with a superb second round 64 at the European Open in Dublin.

The win the 44-year-old desperately wants after 19 barren months could well be just 36 holes away as the only player ahead of him at the halfway stage at the K Club is little-known Swede Pelle Edberg, ranked 460th in the world.

Montgomerie, having switched back to a belly putter this week, grabbed seven birdies and with the best score of the day moved onto the seven under par total of 133.

Edberg is one in front after a 65, but perhaps more of a concern to the eight-time European number one is that Niclas Fasth, fourth at the US Open last month and winner of the BMW International Open in Munich last time out, is alongside him.

Montgomerie sounds full of confidence, though.

“I didn’t play this well when I won the 2005 Order of Merit,” he said. “This is a new era for me and I’m looking forward to it.

“A win would mean that much more to me. There will be a time when it’s my last one, but I do hope it hasn’t happened and I’d like to emulate Des Smyth (the Tour’s oldest winner at 49) and win in my late 40s.”

Even more, of course, he would love to win his first major and after coming back in such impressive fashion from a second round 82 at the US Open last month he added: “Third last week, in contention here and hopefully I’ll be in contention the next couple of weeks as well.”

The Open at Carnoustie follows next week’s Scottish Open.

“This course is shortened (the par five 18th is down to a par three because of the saturated fairway), but it’s very difficult out there. I’m seeing the shot, though, and I’m actually doing it the way I used to do it.”

He gave his seven iron to three feet on the last as the perfect example, adding: “I hit it exactly the way I wanted to with a little cut spin.”

Edberg, known more for his headbands than his golfing ability, turned professional 10 years ago, but then made seven trips to the European Tour qualifying school before making a success of it.

The 28-year-old Arsenal fan has never finished higher than ninth in any Tour event, but he was 19th in last week’s French Open and earned a career-high cheque of nearly €49,000.

Even an opening 67 did not draw particular attention to him, but two putts of over 60 feet in a 65 set a stiff target for the rest of the field.

“When you start making money you feel a bit more comfortable out here,” he said. "You play your game more than keep looking at what everybody else is doing.

“If I can just get a decent weekend I will definitely secure my card for next year, which is a very big thing. There’s going to be a lot of people watching and I may get nervous. I’m not used to that kind of situation.”

Most of the morning focus was on Ryder Cup heroes Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley and also newly-crowned US Open champion Angel Cabrera.

For a time they were all going backwards and almost out of sight of the leaders. McGinley did not recover and at two over had to wait until after 7pm to learn he had missed the cut by a shot.

Cabrera, however, came back to level par and Harrington’s playing of the last 10 holes in four under lifted him to one under and not yet out of the hunt for a notable double following his emotional Irish Open success in May.

Then, however, the world number 10 revealed: “I really didn’t think I was going to play yesterday. I was struggling.

“I hurt my left knee and if it had been as bad as it was for the last four holes of the pro-am on Wednesday I wouldn’t have played.

“I couldn’t go through all my exercises when I got up yesterday, but after it warmed up and I had some anti-inflammatories and treatment and it was fine.

“I took the strapping off today because it was swelling up at the back of the knee. I don’t think it’s anything to worry about – normally it goes away pretty quickly.”

David Howell, in his first tournament since early May because of back and wrist injuries, birdied the last like Montgomerie to guarantee his survival at one over.

But Ian Woosnam, who has out a similar time with post-viral fatigue syndrome, dropped three late shots and by going out on three over has still to earn his first pay cheque of the season.

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