Monty makes merry
Colin Montgomerie was all smiles after a level-par 71 in the sun-kissed opening round of The 145th Open at Royal Troon today.
Montgomerie, who had the honour of hitting the opening shot of the Championship, went out in 33 and came home in a highly creditable 38. No wonder he was so pleased with himself.
It is said that at Royal Troon you must make your score on the wind-assisted front nine and hang on for dear life on the back, when you turn back into the prevailing wind. And that is exactly what the 53-year-old Scot did.
The omens were not good when he opened with a dispiriting double bogey at the 1st, after finding “an impossible lie” in a greenside bunker. From that point on, however, it was like a trip down memory lane for player and fans alike.
They had turned up in their thousands to watch him tee off at 6.35am – the grandstand was full and the fairway was already lined from tee to green – and they were not to be disappointed.
Montgomerie qualified to play on what was his home course as a youngster and he used his knowledge to good effect to put himself back on track. His playing partners, Luke Donald and Marc Leishman, both started with birdies but in the end the bragging rights went to the local hero. Donald had a 73, Leishman a 74.
Impressively, Montgomerie went from propping up the field after the first hole to sharing the lead at the turn on three under par. He rolled in birdie putts of around 15 feet at the 3rd and 4th and had birdies at three of the four holes from the 6th, including one at the Postage Stamp, the par three 8th.
On the back nine he had bogeys at the 11th, the most brutal hole on the course, 14 and 16, but salvaged par at the 13th with a putt of around 40 feet and another par from 15 feet at the last.
Asked if there were nerves on the first tee, Monty admitted there were: “Very much so,” he said. “But I dug deep into the Ryder Cup ways, where I led off the tee twice in the singles, led off the tee three or four times in the fourball and foursomes. It was that type of feeling.
“I tell you what, a lot better players than me – top ten in the world - would have taken 71 after being two over at the first. I'm very proud of myself, yeah, for hanging on because easy to score 78 there. Simple.”
Light was made of the fact that he had to get out of bed at 4am to make his tee time. He hadn’t had much of a breakfast, he lamented, and was distracted by the smells of bacon cooking at the 7th. “That's annoying”, he joked. “You want to stop (to get a bacon roll). I did in practice rounds and you have to keep going. It's disappointing. That smell is fantastic.”
If he makes the cut, he says, that will give him the sweet smell of success. In truth, he will be aiming a lot higher than that.
Elsewhere, Louis Oosthuizen, winner of The Open in 2010, had a hole in one at the 14th. That makes two aces in three Major Championships, following his hole in one at the Masters in April.