Montgomerie beats gremlins in his fairy tale
The stage was set, the script was written and the setting was perfect as Colin Montgomerie strode out to play the first shot of the 145th Open Championship at Royal Troon, his home-town club.
The stand on the par-four first tee had been full for half an hour, all ready to cheer on their favourite son for a 6.35am tee-time lit up by the most perfect early-morning Ayrshire sunshine. It had the feeling of a fairy tale, except that, as Montgomerie quickly discovered, fairy tales are not always saccharine Disney affairs. Plenty contain ghouls and goblins. And so it was with his second shot on the first that he found one of the bunkers guarding the green like a troll lying in wait beneath a bridge. The lie could not have been more awkward, the ball lodged by the face of the bunker.
"It was amazing how that ball came out," Montgomerie said. "No one in the field would have got the first ball out of there." That included Montgomerie. His first attempt flew up and down straight into a fresh footprint. Montgomerie opted for an emergency exit route by chipping sideways away from the green, yet that was far from taking the easy way out. "The best shot I hit, probably one of the best shots of my life, was the fourth shot out of the bunker in the first, away from the hole," he said.
While his playing partners, Luke Donald and Marc Leishman, both picked up birdies, Montgomerie escaped with a double bogey and could not have been more relieved.
From such an inauspicious start, Montgomerie charged - or rather, for a 53-year-old with more spare timber than a Brazilian rainforest clearer, trundled rather forcefully - picking up birdies at five of the next eight holes to reach the turn in 33, which was good enough for a share of the lead. "I had a quick look, and I was No 1 on there, so I thought that was all right."
But bogeys at the 11th, 14th and 16th halted his run. Some terrific scrambling, notably a 30ft putt on the 13th, prevented a stumble becoming a nosedive and, given the treacherous back nine, Montgomerie was more than satisfied with his level-par 71.