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Montgomerie set on US Open qualification

Next month's U.S. Open will be preying on Colin Montgomerie's mind when he tees off in the opening round of the British Masters on Thursday.

The seven-times European number one, ranked 54th in the world, needs to return to the top 50 by the end of this month if he is to book his place in the second of the year's four major championships.

Victory this week at the Forest of Arden, where the Briton boasts an impressive record, would do the trick.

"I've got to get into the top 50 by the end of the BMW Championship at Wentworth (on May 29) and I'm very focused on doing that," Montgomerie told Reuters on Tuesday.

"If not, then I'll definitely be at Walton Heath on June 6."

This year, for the first time, international U.S. Open qualifying tournaments are being held and Montgomerie has entered the 36-hole sectional qualifier to be played at Walton Heath Golf Club on the outskirts of London, England.

"Still, I've got three events (to make up the ground) before then and I believe I can do it," added the 41-year-old Scot, who is also in the field for next week's Irish Open.

"I've been at 54 in the world for a while now but the gap has shortened and a decent week here should get me in.

"Thankfully, everything's going in the right direction."

According to world rankings organiser Ian Barker of Official World Golf Ranking, a clear top-four finish or better at the British Masters would lift Montgomerie back into the top 50.

"If he wins this week, he would get towards the top 30," Barker told Reuters. "Fourth and better almost certainly gets him into the top 50 but tied for fourth or worse is too close to call.

"To indicate just how close it is in the rankings, South Africa's Tim Clark, who is in 30th place, has 2.76 points while Thomas Levet, in 50th, is only 0.5 points behind."

Montgomerie will be chasing a hat-trick of wins at the Forest of Arden layout in central England, having clinched the British Masters there in 1998 as well as the 1994 English Open.

"I'm really looking forward to it," he said. "It's the first British event of the 2005 European Tour and it's always good to play on home soil."

Montgomerie, who failed to qualify for last month's U.S. Masters for the first time since 1991, played in every U.S. Open from 1992 until last year when he was not exempt after dropping out of the world's top 50.

Having produced top-three U.S. Open finishes in 1992, 1994 and 1997, he is determined to be in the field for the June 16-19 event at Pinehurst in North Carolina.

Europe's leading player from 1993 to 1999 and a talismanic figure at the Ryder Cup, Montgomerie lost form last year while in the throes of a very public divorce.

This season, however, he has been more consistent with five top-10 finishes on the European Tour. He heads the Reuters Statistics stroke averages on 68.39 and lies 13th on the European order of merit with earnings of 297,387 euros ($381,900).


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