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Montgomerie writing off 2003 as a failure

Defending champion Colin Montgomerie says he will write off his 2003 campaign as a disappointment, even if he wins this week's season-ending Volvo Masters at Valderrama.

The 40-year-old Briton, who shared last year's title with Bernhard Langer after the two players had squared the first two extra holes in gathering gloom, needs to triumph on Sunday to avoid his first winless season in Europe since 1992.

"I can put it (the year) a little bit to rights if I win here," the seven-times European number one told a news conference on Wednesday. "But, even if I won here this week, it will be a disappointing year overall.

"I look at the world rankings more than I do the European stuff. I started at 10th in the world this year and I'm now currently 38th. So that's the worst year I've had.

"I've also got to win here to get into the top 10 (in the European order of merit), and I've never been out of the top 10 since 1990," added the Scot, who lies 28th in European Tour's money list.

Montgomerie, who won his first title of the year at the Asian PGA Tour's Macau Open 10 days ago, pinpointed back trouble as the root of his inconsistent form in 2003.

"I think my back has played a big role, and I had 10 weeks off at the start of this year because of back problems," he said. "And it's really tough trying to play catch up nowadays.

"Over the last two and a half to three years, when my back started playing up, it's very easy to say swing the club the way you do normally.

"There's obviously something subconscious there that stopped me from doing that, and that's why I have not performed as well as I have," added the Briton, who has produced just four top-10 finishes in 21 European starts this season.

"But I have managed to get that back again now, and I'm swinging the club the way I used to.

"I'm playing well enough to win here, and that's the important thing. I really enjoy playing here."

Montgomerie, who also won at Valderrama in 1993, is scheduled to tee off with twice U.S. Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal at 1141 GMT in Thursday's opening round.

Apart from the big Scot, six other former winners are in the elite field of 57 chasing a first prize of $690,256.

Also taking part are 2001 winner Padraig Harrington, 1999 winner Miguel Angel Jimenez, Darren Clarke (1998), Lee Westwood (1997), Zimbabwe's Mark NcNulty (1996) and Englishman Nick Faldo, the inaugural champion in 1988.

However Langer, the co-defending champion, is absent. Qualification for this year's tournament is based solely on the top 60 players in the European order of merit and the German, who languishes well down in 90th, therefore misses out.

Although the par-72 Valderrama layout has been drenched by seven inches of rain since Saturday, forcing Wednesday's pro-am to be cut to nine holes, local weather forecasts expect improving weather for the rest of the week.

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