Colin Montgomerie struggled to stay in touch today as German Marcel Siem and England’s Graeme Storm turned on the style at the Andalucian Open in Seville.
Playing his 500th European Tour event as a professional, Montgomerie was only one behind fellow Scot Chris Doak after an opening 67.
But Europe’s new Ryder Cup captain, whose last top-10 finish was nearly nine months ago, managed only a level-par 72 on his return – and, with Doak taking 73, it was all change at the top.
Siem scored 67 to reach nine under and Storm a 66 to be only one behind, along with France’s Jean-Francois Lucquin – while in the last match of the day, Scot David Drysdale was seven under and still had three to play.
Montgomerie was four adrift with Doak and, despite his gloomy mood, still very much in it.
After mixing five birdies with five bogeys, the last of them on the 18th when he failed to get up and down from a greenside bunker, the eight-time European number one displayed his disappointment by declining a request for a television interview.
Within minutes, he was heading back to his hotel – commenting on his way: “I was just completely out of sync today.
“I played very badly, and 72 is what you get when you play that way.”
Having spoken the day before of how much more relaxed he was on the course following his Ryder Cup appointment, there was also an incident when he felt the need to have words with a photographer as his round threatened to fall apart.
Then came four birdies in the final six holes, but two more bogeys left him far from happy.
The key to Siem’s week is that he has managed not to lose his temper so far.
“I think I will never change completely, but I am pretty calm at the moment,” said the 28-year-old, who even kept his cool when three-putting the last for bogey.
“I said to my caddie that I feel like Retief Goosen – I don’t have any emotions.”
He told the story of two years ago in Cologne when he broke his driver after missing the cut.
“There were a couple of children around. I nearly cried, thought how can I do this, then went up to them and said ’Don’t do this ever’.
“I should be a boxer or a footballer, when I can show my emotions.”
Storm is happy to be finding his form again, after having his clubs stolen in Dubai last month.
“I was watching Liverpool against Chelsea on TV. At 10.30pm they were still there, and at 10.45 gone.
“I put in a police report, but somebody is enjoying playing with them in the sunshine in Dubai.
“There was a two-iron I’d had for years, a lob wedge specially made for me and a new driver that I loved. It was a massive loss.”
As he approached the closing stretch, Drysdale was lying joint fourth – with Swede Michael Jonzon and Spaniard Carlos Del Moral.
Jose Maria Olazabal missed the cut in only his fifth event since last May but still intends to be at The Masters in two weeks, unless his health problems - rheumatism and fatigue – worsen.
Whether Dane Anders Hansen or Swede Peter Hanson are there looks doubtful now.
They both need to finish in the top three to have a chance of climbing into the world’s top 50 just in time for Augusta. But Hansen is two under – and Hansen, yet to play The Masters, needed three birdies in the last four to squeeze through the cut on level par.