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Montgomerie recovering from back injury

There is one thing you can say about Colin Montgomerie: he has remarkable powers of recovery. On Sunday night, as he completed his final round in the Irish Open in Cork, the future looked utterly bleak for the Scot who was seven times the winner of the Order of Merit on the European Tour.

His injured back was needing treatment during almost every round. He could not compete, he insisted, he was going home, he might not even be able to play in the Open at Muirfield later this month.

Miserable Montgomerie was whisked away in a big, black limo. When would we see him again? The next day he decided he would stay in Dublin, get some treatment, and visit a new golf course he is designing. And where was he yesterday? Why, on the K Club course, Kildare, practising for the European Open, which starts tomorrow.

Guy Kinnings, his manager, came in with a statement, informing us that: "Colin will play in the pro-am on Wednesday and the tournament itself. He has been working with his coach Denis Pugh who checked that the way he was swinging was not hurting the back.

"The medical treatment is on-going, but provided the improvement is maintained, Colin will play in the European, the Scottish Open, and at Muirfield.

"His personal trainer is with him and he is looking forward to the challenges of the next few weeks. He is in a very positive frame of mind right now."

There you go: what a difference a few days in the right hands can make.

After the great back saga, one is unsurprised, however, that Montgomerie is not the favourite for the European title. Instead that cross is to be carried by local lad Padraig Harrington at 10-1, Darren Clarke and Colin are at 12s.

Given that Harrington has not won a tournament so far this season, he may be a sentimental rather than a sensible choice. But the Dubliner does love the course and is pleased to have Bob Torrance, his Scottish coach, with him this week.

Bob, Sam's father, has just recovered from an operation to unblock an artery, and believes Padraig is ready to mount the winner's rostrum again. Harrington himself declared: "If there is wind here, the K Club, which has heavy rough and lots of trees, could be as big a test as the US Open at Bethpage, New York, was last month.

"Sure, I would have liked to have a win on the board by now, but I am not particularly anxious. I am confident that things are going in the right direction and that my game is on track."

Looking at the betting, I note that Denmark's Thomas Björn, fifth at Cork, is quoted at 20-1 which are very tempting odds.

The K Club is, of course, the venue for the Ryder Cup contest in 2006. Who is the favourite to be the European team captain? Is it a bloke with a dodgy back? Watch this space.


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