Monty happy with his lot

Colin Montgomerie has not always considered himself lucky - far from it, in fact. But he does at the moment.

Colin Montgomerie has not always considered himself lucky - far from it, in fact. But he does at the moment.

The simple reason for that is that a week after his 44th birthday he is still competing for some of the biggest prizes in European Tour golf.

The week after next, in the Open at Carnoustie, he hopes he will be in world golf too.

Third in last week's French Open - he led entering the closing stretch at Le Golf National, but made two costly bogeys - Montgomerie resumed the European Open at the K Club near Dublin today in joint second place.

He has not won since December 2005 and he has still to win a major, of course, but the eight-time European number one is thrilled at coming back so strongly from his second-round 82 at the US Open last month.

"The last time I played this well must have been 1999 when I won six times out here," he said.

"That was the best I had ever played.

"It's nice that golf enables me to do that. If I was in any other sport, at 44 years old you'd be well gone.

"It's nice to think that after a great career through to 1999 I'm starting again if you like. I'm very fortunate."

That good fortune extends to not suffering the injury setbacks which Seve Ballesteros, Sandy Lyle and Ian Woosnam have been unable to overcome.

"I spent the last six years not swinging the club the way I used to. Sometimes it's too late - you think about Seve or Sandy or Woosie who have had back problems.

"You say to Seve 'just swing the club the way you used to' and it's obviously impossible to do because he can't get in the position. Fortunately I'm flexible enough to do that.

"I'm lucky I've found it. This is a new era for me, I think, and I'm really looking forward to this time.

"There will be a time where it will be my last win. I do hope that hasn't happened - I'd like to emulate Des Smyth [Europe's oldest winner at 48] and win in my late 40s."

After a best-of-the-day 64 yesterday, Montgomerie moved right on to the heels of little-known Pelle Edberg - a Swede ranked 460th in the world who has never finished higher than ninth in any Tour event.

Edberg's compatriot Niclas Fasth looks the real big danger to the Scot's title hopes, however.

Fasth is alongside him on seven under and in his last two tournaments has finished fourth in the US Open and won the BMW International Open in Munich.

He and Montgomerie both practise at the Wisley Club in Surrey, and Montgomerie said: "I see him quite a bit driving down on his motorbike. You won't ever get me on that!

"Let's hope he has a very good weekend and finishes second."

He said the same last week about young English player Zane Scotland, but Fasth is the world number 22 and not somebody still trying to get on to the European Tour.

Essex's Simon Khan and 47-year-old South African David Frost were only two behind Edberg at halfway, while home hero Padraig Harrington had seven strokes to make up.

The Dubliner was relieved still to be on the fringes of contention, though. First he was concerned a knee injury would keep him out of the event - and then he stood two strokes outside the cut mark yesterday before grabbing four birdies to climb to 25th place.

Among those who failed to make it through were Paul McGinley and Woosnam, who has still to earn his first pay cheque of the season as he tries to fight the effects of post-viral fatigue syndrome.

One place in the Open Championship is up for grabs this weekend as well as a two-year Tour exemption. Edberg is in position to take that, but Frost and Khan are hoping to take it too.

So is Australian Richard Green at four under. Green is 39th in the world - but remarkably still not exempt for Carnoustie.

He could even be close to the top 20 after this week's event and next week's Scottish Open, and still not be there.

"It's staggering, and I don't think it's right," he said.

"I find it strange that the cut-off for the world's top 50 is so long before the tournament [it was a month ago]. I wasn't in the top 50 then and I'd have thought they would want it closer to get the best players in the world.

"It will be a shock if I don't make it, but those are the rules. Is the system right, though?"

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