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Monty and Westwood seeking return of the limelight

Lee Westwood and Colin Montgomerie suddenly find themselves in the shadows somewhat on the European tour. But not for long, they hope.

The victory of 19-year-old Sergio Garcia in the Irish Open on Sunday has given the circuit a brand new star.

But while the spotlight has followed the young - and now shaven-headed - Spaniard from Dublin to Loch Lomond for the £1million Standard Life tournament starting on Wednesday, Britain's two representatives in the world's top 10 are confident they can grab it back.

Westwood, ranked ninth, is the defending champion and is confident that with fifth and seventh places finishes the last two weeks his lean spell is behind him.

"I'm delighted my game is coming back for the Open next week," said the 26-year-old from Worksop. "I'm timing my run well.

"Things didn't look so good a month ago, but it's starting to look a lot more promising."

Of Garcia he comments: "It does not seem like he is afraid of anything.

"I said two months ago when he shot a 62 in his first US Tour round that he should be told he was in the Ryder Cup team.

"It's a big cloud over your head if you don't know whether you're in or not. Now I think he has forced his way through the door.

"I'm sure he has made Mark James' decisions a little bit easier than they were. I would like to partner him."

World number six Montgomerie now fully expects Garcia to move from his current 18th place in the Ryder Cup table into the top 10 and so earn a spot automatically.

"That would give Mark James a free pick rather than having his hands tied," said the Scot, who believes one of James' two wild cards is earmarked for US Tour-based Jesper Parnevik, the current world number 15.

"It's only every so often that a very, very good player comes along and we're lucky that this one is European. He does not appear to suffer from nerves and he has great self-belief."

Montgomerie thinks that confidence more than anything else will determine who wins next week at Carnoustie - but his first thoughts are on Loch Lomond.

Still to have a solo success in his home country, Europe's number one for the past six seasons, said: "I've finished seventh, fourth and 10th here and I would love to win.

"This game is all about confidence and a top-three finish here would be fantastic preparation for next week."

He is staying with his father in Troon this week but insists he will not be sneaking some links practice.

Told of a rumour that he was planning to work on pitch-and-run shots, Montgomerie replied: "There won't be many of those at Carnoustie - it's a myth.

"If I play one pitch-and-run shot a day I will be lucky. I'm just going to Troon to spend some time with my father."

Westwood and Montgomerie finished joint seventh on Sunday, nine shots behind Garcia, and while the former player has been working mainly on his putting, Montgomerie has put some new stiffer shafts in his irons.

His news conference actually came in mid-practice round, the ninth hole running past the media centre, and he said: "I had some problems last week but I've played eight-and-a-half holes every well and I'm looking forward to the remaining nine-and-a-half holes."

Westwood discovered after two rounds at Druids Glen that while he led the greens in regulation category he was 116th in putting. Two three-putts in the last three holes on Sunday - sandwiched either side of a double bogey - made it clear that all was still not well.

Last year he was the talk of golf. His Loch Lomond victory was his seventh in nine months and it put enormous attention on him going into the Open at Birkdale. He finished 62nd.

"Winning going into the Open changes the circumstances ever so slightly and if you haven't been through it before then it is a bit of a shock to you," he said.

"I've won back-to-back before, though, and I'd love to win here. Winning is never a let-down - it can only give you confidence."

Fewer American stars than usual are playing this week - Billy Mayfair is the top-ranked and he is hardly a household name.

Some, like world number one Tiger Woods and defending Open champion Mark O'Meara, are practising in Ireland, others see no need to spend more than one week away from the mountains of money on offer on the US Tour.

Lyle Anderson, president of Loch Lomond and with aspirations of staging the Ryder Cup in the future, insists he will never offer appearance money to attract the superstars.

But he would like to see only 100 rather than 150 players taking part in his event and knows that goes against the European Tour policy of giving as many members as possible the chance to play.

Changes are envisaged not for next year but the season after. "We have the opportunity then to do something different," said Anderson, not ruling out a change of date.

Majestic though the setting is, Westwood is not happy with the condition of some of the greens this year, referring to a "mishap with something they have put on".

Nick Faldo probably does not care what they put on as long as it helps him get the ball in the hole in fewer shots.

It is possible only to predict one thing for him at the moment - that he will last longer in the tournament than last year when he injured his arm just before teeing off and withdrew.