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Montgomerie still committed at turning 40

In his last week as a thirty-something, Colin Montgomerie was adamant yesterday that he will not lower his golfing ambitions as he prepared for his first competitive round over the PGA Centenary Course.

On the eve of the first round of the Diageo Championship at Gleneagles, where he is the top-ranked player at world No.21, Montgomerie said the number of players in their forties who are winning on both the European and US tours had given him heart, as, indeed, had the fact that Tiger Woods had failed to win either of the season's first two majors.

Although no-one of that vintage has won in Europe this season, Eduardo Romero of Argentina was 48 when he won last year's Barclays Scottish Open at Loch Lomond, while Scott Hoch, 47, and Fred Couples, 43, have both won events in America this year.

"I am 40 on Monday and, if I was a footballer, I'd be well finished by now," said Montgomerie, who believes he is an exception to the theory that most sportsmen have a 10-year window of opportunity when they must take their chances.

"Seve, Faldo, and Langer took theirs and I suppose, in a way, I have taken mine and I don't intend to stop," said the seven-times European No.1, who has yet to win a major and may well be best remembered for his excellence in Ryder Cup matchplay, not that he has the slightest intention of confining himself yet to the history books.

"I am coming here to win, I am going to Loch Lomond to win, and I am going to the Open to win, so I am not thinking that time is running out. I am here to compete at this level for the next five or six years."

Montgomerie was joint 42nd in last week's US Open, while Australian Stephen Leaney was runner-up. The Scot, of course, poached Stevie Rawlinson, Leaney's caddie, last month, and asked if he had assured him he had made the right move, the Scot answered by wishing good luck on Leaney.

Despite Sam Torrance's assessment that it was the switch from peripherally-weighted irons to blades and back to peripherals again that had caused the run of poor form this season, Montgomerie professed himself happy with his cast set of Hogan irons and said he was ready to move forward.

Yesterday was wet and windy, but Montgomerie was still impressed with the Jack Nicklaus-designed course. He missed the romanticism of the adjacent Kings Course, but he reckoned it had had its day for tournament golf and the new and fast-maturing PGA Centenary Course, venue for the 2014 Ryder Cup, was the future.

Paul Lawrie, at world No.42 the fourth highest ranked player here after Montgomerie, England's Paul Casey (No.33), the winner two years ago, and holder Adam Scott of Australia (No.40), talked yesterday about his low profile for that rarest of species, a British-born Open champion. Lawrie, who was 30 when he won the silver claret jug at Carnoustie four years ago, attributed much of that to personal choice.

"I didn't want a profile," he said with a candour that was warming. "I wanted to be able to go places and not be bothered, to take my wife out for a meal, and not be interrupted every two minutes. I didn't want my kids to be bothered by it, and I wanted a normal life.

"Now it is probably my fault that I don't have the profile or recognition that I deserve, because I went out of my way not to do many press or magazine interviews or have my hair all spiky and different colours. I did not want the 'celeb' sort of thing so I can't moan now about the fact that I don't get recognition.

"Beckham moans about his lifestyle but he is the one who has given himself that lifestyle, so you can't have it both ways."

Lawrie was upbeat about his chances despite missing the cut at last week's US Open, and so was Scott, who last year set a record 26-under-par aggregate of 262, 22 of these sub-par strokes coming at the five par-5s, few of which he reached yesterday in two shots.

"If the weather stays like this, 10 under will be a good score," said the quietly-spoken player who is recovering from a virus which struck last week at the US Open. [The forecast is dry and bright with some light rain in the afternoon.] Torrance pulled out of yesterday's pro-am after 15 holes because his injured left knee was troubling him, but still rated his chances of playing today as "better than 50-50".

 

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