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Montgomerie & Harrington back in action

Colin Montgomerie and Padraig Harrington are back in action at the Linde German Masters in Cologne today, confident they will be fit to play all five matches in the Ryder Cup if required.

With the match against the Americans only a fortnight away, Montgomerie, 39, was upbeat about the back problems which forced him out of the NEC World Championship in Seattle after 27 holes on Aug 23.

Today's first round at Gut Larchenhof will be his first competitive outing since then and the Scot insisted: "I feel fine."

Nine members of the European side - Darren Clarke, Sergio Garcia and Jesper Parnevik are the absentees - tee off in Cologne and the news of Montgomerie's recovery was delivered at an eve-of-championship team meeting.

The seven-times European No 1 declared: "If the Ryder Cup were this week, I could play all five games and I won't go to The Belfry unless I can tell the captain that.

"I've been working hard on strengthening my back, I've lost 20lbs in weight and am anxious to get back and compete here and in next week's American Express World Golf Championship, in Ireland, before the Ryder Cup.

"I'm hitting the ball well and after being out for nearly a month, I am excited about coming back on a course where I won four years ago.

"I wouldn't say this week is a test, but I'll be glad when Sunday night comes and I can say to myself: 'That's okay, now we can just get on with the playing.' "Let's hope people will be talking about Montgomerie's golf as opposed to other parts of him."

Harrington, who has also suffered neck and shoulder injuries, got the all-clear after taking last week off to undergo scans on his damaged left ankle.

He explained: "The specialist told me I've just got to build up the muscles around it and I've got my physio, Dale Richardson, with me."

A session with coach Bob Torrance, father of Sam, swiftly solved his swing problems. "He discovered it was simply my alignment that was out because of the injury," said Harrington.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer also had something to celebrate. His English caddie Peter Coleman, 61, is back after breaking his right shoulder in a fall from a ladder.

Langer faces tough opposition in his hopes of a 12th Tour success on German soil as the top four in the European money list - Open champion Ernie Els, fellow South African Retief Goosen, Harrington and New Zealand's Michael Campbell - are also pursuing the £315,541 top prize. Also in the field are Nick Faldo, Jose-Maria Olazabal and US PGA champion Rich Beem.

The American revealed he lived in Germany from 1983-87, when his father was professional at the US Army golf club in Berlin. He twice won Department of Defence schoolboy championships.

John Daly, runner-up to Langer last year, has withdrawn with a shoulder injury, while Justin Rose has pulled out following the death of his father.

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