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Monty and Westwood tune up for U.S. Open

Defending champion Lee Westwood and European number one Colin Montgomerie are using this week's English Open to prepare for the U.S. Open later this month.

Westwood will be making up for lost time to fine-tune his game after recent injury worries.

Montgomerie insists his full focus will be on the par-72 Hanbury Manor layout over the next four days.

"I have entered this tournament, as I do in most tournaments, to try and win. Pinehurst (U.S. Open venue) is very much in the background right now. I've come here to win and that is my goal this week," Montgomerie said.

The Scot, who rose to five in the world rankings after his impressive five-shot victory in the British PGA at Wentworth on Monday, is going for a third European title in four appearances.

"After last week's performance, I come here hoping that I can play a similar type of game as I left at Wentworth.

"I want to try to get into contention on Saturday night so I can hopefully win on Sunday. Although the expectation is high, it'll be a good competition."

Montgomerie knows that, to win a U.S. major, he needs to play with the same level of confidence and self belief in America as he does, day-in and day-out, in Europe.

"Hopefully I can take that over to Pinehurst because, if I can play this well and this confidently and course manage myself properly -- my caddie and I are very good that way -- I have an opportunity of winning the U.S. Open."

"It's a just a matter of trying to maintain form and confidence because the game's there, I know that. I've just proved that over the last few weeks."

For injury-troubled Englishman Westwood, who has dropped behind Montgomerie to eight on the world rankings, this week's English Open is vital to restore some golfing rhythm. Victory would be a bonus.

"It will be nice to play four rounds and get into contention and feel a bit of pressure again. But, if I don't, I won't be too disappointed.

"I haven't played that much lately, even my dad's played more golf than me. And I think he's playing better than I am, by all accounts," Westwood joked.

Westwood, after winning in Macau during April, was plagued with a pinched nerve in his back. Several trips to specialists eventually revealed this to be a viral infection which would pass after six or seven weeks.

"I think the injury, which has now gone, had something to do with my poor run-up to the last few tournaments. You do get injuries in your career and they set you back," Westwood said.

"I'm basically treating the next two weeks as a warm-up for the U.S. Open, although I'd have treated them differently if I'd not had the injury."

At Hanbury Manor, Montgomerie and Westwood are the leading contenders in a 155-strong field considerably weakened since the British PGA.

Swedes Jesper Parnevik and 1997 champion Per-Ulrik Johansson, Spaniard Sergio Garcia and Englishman David Howell, currently sixth on the European Order of Merit, are all playing in the Memorial tournament in the U.S. this week.

Germany's Bernhard Langer and U.S. Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal have taken the week off while Ian Woosnam pulled out of the event on Tuesday after damaging a finger playing with his children.

Leading challengers for the English Open title include South Africa's Retief Goosen, in-form Ryder Cup captain Mark James, Sweden's Jarmo Sandelin and Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke.

The winning score is likely to be higher than the 271 of Westwood last year. The 7,006 yards course is playing particularly long at present after recent heavy rain

 

Reuters