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Montgomerie says back injury improving

Colin Montgomerie on Wednesday blamed his poor form this year on a back problem that has affected his swing.

Preparing for this weekend's European Masters in this Swiss Alpine resort, Montgomerie said the back pain became chronic last year but is now receding and his swing is improving.

Montgomerie's back troubles in the spring of last year threatened his participation in a number of events, but he was able to play in the Ryder Cup in September and was the star in Europe's victory as he won 4-1/2 points out of five.

He won just one tournament last year, the Volvo Masters, sharing the win with Bernard Langer, and his best finishes this year have been two seconds and a fourth.

Because of his back, he had to take 10 weeks off during the winter.

``I haven't actually recovered from that. My swing changed slightly and I am trying to get it back to where it was. So this year has been a transition year,'' he said. ``Because of my back I swung the club differently for two years, subconsciously to get round the problem. I started to rotate, which I hadn't done, because it was easier for me. And I started hooking it.''

He said the solution to his problems was ``actually very close'' as he looked forward to a five-week run on the European Tour, the first four of which he has won before.

Montgomerie hasn't had a week off since the NEC Invitational.

He missed the PGA Championship cut after opening with a 82. ``I made 12 bogeys and eight of them were after missing the fairway by a yard,'' he said.

The NEC was better. He finished tied for 23rd.

The 40-year-old Scot welcomed the new Ryder Cup qualifying system, arguing the new method of selecting the European squad will produce the strongest team possible.

Instead of 10 players qualifying from a points table based on the Order of Merit and two wild cards making up the team, five players will qualify from a special Ryder Cup World Points List which begins at Crans-sur-Sierre.

Players' world ranking points, earned from each event they play in, will be added together, unlike the official world rankings which take an average of points earned per event.

Five more players will have the chance to qualify through money earned in official European Tour events and the captain's two wild cards will complete the team.

The new system will allow players who compete primarily on the U.S. PGA, such as Sergio Garcia, to qualify automatically rather than having to rely on being a captain's choice.

``This system enables us to have the best playing team at the time,'' Montgomerie said.


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