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Montgomerie starts quest for eight straight

Colin Montgomerie has decided to work overtime this season to try to become European number one for the eighth time.

The 36-year-old Scot has added the Spanish Open, starting here on Friday, and next week's French Open to his schedule with a twin objective.

In the short term he wants to get some confidence back with his putting and in the longer term to ensure he qualifies for one of the three remaining World Championship events later in the season.

Conscious he needs some telling results from all the World Championship tournaments, which now count for European ranking points, Montgomerie asked to play in the Spanish and French events to try to make up ground on order of merit leader Darren Clarke.

Northern Irishman Clarke's Andersen Consulting Matchplay World Championship win in February has put him more than 500,000 pounds ($789,300) ahead of Montgomerie, who languishes in 32nd spot on the money list.

Montgomerie may be the world number three but he needs to ranked in Europe's top 12 to earn a place in the next World Championship event, the NEC Invitational in Akron, Ohio, in August.

Essentially, he needs to put right the putting errors that caused his defeat in his singles contest against Severiano Ballesteros in the Spaniard's inaugural Ballesteros Trophy 10 days ago.

"I'm not holing my fair share of putts and that's been my problem for the last year," said Montgomerie. "That's why I've added these two weeks, to try to get some confidence before the U.S. PGA and the U.S. Open.

"And at the moment I'm not in the NEC. It's no good being the world's number three. You have to be one of the top 12 Europeans on our rankings now to get your place and at the moment I've not qualified.

"There is so much money for the World Championships now, right or wrong, that just one win, even a second place, makes an awful lot of difference to our rankings. Darren proved that and good luck to him.

Montgomerie has changed his putting stroke to try to change his luck on the greens and makes his Spanish bid with Bernhard Langer's caddy Peter Coleman on the bag, while regular carrier Alastair McLean enjoys his honeymoon.

"My putter blade is coming through past my body now," added Montgomerie. "I was stopping on it. Let's see if that works.

"Peter was a natural replacement for Alastair because Bernhard Langer and I have the same game -- I just play it quicker!

"It would be nice to win this week because when I won the 1994 Spanish Open it put me in the world's top 10 for the first time and I've never dropped out since."

Sergio Garcia also feels it would be "very special" to win on home soil, though the Open at Carnoustie is his prime target.

"Now that the Masters has gone, the Open is number one for me," the Spaniard said.

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