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Colin Montgomerie sets sights on European No.1

Open runner-up Colin Montgomerie's return to action this week could send him to the top of Europe's money-list.

A first or second place in the Johnnie Walker Championship, which starts on Thursday, will take Montgomerie from second behind U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell on the European rankings to top.

The 42-year-old Scot, number one in Europe a record seven times between 1993-99, believes an eighth is now within his grasp after finishing second behind Tiger Woods at last month's British Open.

"I am fully aware that if I finish first or second here then I go back to the top of the order of merit in Europe," Montgomerie said on Wednesday.

"Believe me, I know exactly what to do when I get there."

Montgomerie's St Andrews performance has convinced him he has pulled out of a slump which has seen him win only once in the last two and a half years and his form suffered with his public divorce last year.

"I feel now I am pulling out of a slight recession," he said.

"I left the order of merit position as number one in 1999 and a lot have been thinking: 'Monty is past his best, he has had his time at the top'.

"For 12 years I had performed at a fair level, then it started to plateau and then it started to dip.

"So it's nice to know it is on its way back and I am very excited about the next three months.

"I think I am a putt a round away from where I was in the 90s.

"Number eight (European number one) would be worth much more than all seven put together after five years of not doing anything."

His belief in himself stretches to the final major of the year, the U.S. PGA Championship, which is being played next week at Baltusrol in New Jersey.

"Next week I go with as much confidence as I had going to the Pebble Beach U.S. Open of 2000 when I was ranked highly in the world," added the Scot.

Montgomerie, the highest world-ranked player in Scotland at 24th, has the ideal chance to stake his claim as top man in Europe this week, with a weak field at the PGA Centenary course that will stage the 2014 Ryder Cup.

Ryder Cup player David Howell, ranked 31st in the world, had been expected to pose a threat to Montgomerie's aspirations in Scotland but the Englishman pulled out of the tournament on Wednesday as a precautionary measure ahead of next week's major.

The 30-year-old Howell has been out of action since withdrawing after the first round of the U.S. Open in June with a torn abdominal muscle.


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