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Montgomerie seeks 4th Scandinavian title

No other golfer has more Scandinavian Masters victories than three-time champion Colin Montgomerie. No other has played all 44 rounds in the Swedish tournament's history.

``I'm aiming for 48,'' Montgomerie said Wednesday, the day before the opening round at Kings Course, one of two layouts at the Kungsangen Golf Club north of Stockholm.

For a while it looked that the defending champion's streak would be over in the 1.9 million euros ($1.86 million) event that is the best-attended on the European Tour after the British Open.

``Monty'' was upset by media criticism during the recent British Open -- where he shot a 13-over-par 84 in the third round -- and said he was pulling out of the Scandinavian Masters.

Four days later, the Scotsman changed his mind.

``Sweden is my favorite country,'' Montgomerie said. ``The fans are always enthusiastic here. But I'm not moving to Sweden until you get a new government. Your taxes are so high.''

``I played in Sweden for the first time in 1985, at Halmstad. A great course,'' he added, referring to the western Swedish course that is considered one of continental Europe's best links.

Montgomery, who spent a week ``doing nothing'' on a boat off Naples, Italy, after the British Open, won the inaugural Scandinavian Masters on another Stockholm course in 1991 and also prevailed at Barseback in southern Sweden in 1999 and last year.

He has not won since last year, but finished runnerup twice this year, including a playoff loss to Tiger Woods in Germany.

``I would love to win here, before the (U.S.) PGA Championship,'' said Montgomery, still missing a major after an unprecedented seven successive European Order-of-Merit titles that ended in 2000.

But he has not played well on the Kings Course, finishing 16th in 1998 and 17th in 2000.

Jesper Parnevik and Lee Westwoodwere the last two winners on the course. Westwood tied for second last year, but the Englishman decided not to play this year after one of his worst slumps on the European Tour.

Parnevik, who grew up in northern Stockholm and beat Tiger Woods on his home course at nearby Ullna in the 1999 SAS Invitational, also won the 1995 Scandinavian Masters in southern Sweden.

``Positive memories,'' said Parnevik, who also has played every Scandinavian Masters since 1991 but missed the cut in his first two starts. ``It's fun to play in Sweden. The fans know golf. Naturally I get inspired.''

Other home players include last year's British Open runnerup Niclas Fasth and Pierre Fulke, who will make their Ryder Cup debuts for Europe against the United States at the Belfry in England in September.

Former PGA champion Jeff Sluman of the United States is also in the tournament that started in the late 1960s as the Volvo Open -- Jack Nicklaus once failed to win it -- and then became the Scandinavian Enterprise Open, dominated by Seve Ballesteros, before renamed the Scandinavian Masters in 1991.

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