Unhappy return to Celtic Manor for out-of-from Colin Montgomerie
COLIN Montgomerie was back at the scene of arguably his greatest triumph today - but it was not shaping up to be a happy return.
Montgomerie, who led Europe to victory over the Americans at Celtic Manor two years ago, was three over par after only four holes of the ISPS Handa Wales Open.
He began well enough with a birdie at the long 11th, but then came a double bogey on the next and bogeys at the 13th and 14th to leave him five behind early leaders Lee Slattery, Thongchai Jaidee, Lorenzo Gagli and Marcel Siem.
Just short of his 49th birthday and older than any European Tour winner in history - or any major champion come to that - eight-time Order of Merit number one Montgomerie still has not given up hope of adding to his title collection.
But he warned on the eve of the event that at nearly 7,400 yards this week's course might prove too long for him and his energy levels can hardly have been helped by two crazy-sounding overnight drives earlier this week.
First he went from Wentworth to his Perthshire home to collect a putter for Monday's US Open qualifier at Walton Heath, then after failing there he went home again "for dinner" before heading off for Wales at 11pm on Tuesday.
"Just me and Eddie Stobart lorries," he said, "Flying would be really sensible, but I had nothing else to do and I don't get a lot of time to myself."
Compatriot Paul Lawrie, second in the Ryder Cup race after his runner-up finish in the BMW PGA Championship on Sunday, also birdied the 11th and remained one under after three.
He was playing with cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal, who kicked off with a bogey six.
In a disappointing field only four of the 2010 side were present. Ross Fisher, Miguel Angel Jimenez and brothers Edoardo and Francesco Molinari were all among the later starters.
Making his European Tour debut as a sponsor's invite was the Duke of Roxburghe's son Ted Innes-Ker. The 28-year-old, a friend of Pippa Middleton from their university days, was not setting his sights too high, saying that making the cut was "a tall order" - and he double-bogeyed the 465-yard first.
Jaidee led on his own at three under when he added another birdie at the 439-yard eighth, but Lawrie fell back into the pack.
First he double-bogeyed the 14th and then, after a birdie on the next, he bogeyed the 16th and 17th to stand two over along with Olazabal, who also dropped another shot on the 17th.
Defending champion Alex Noren, joint winner of the US Open qualifier on Monday, was having trouble as well. After an opening birdie he double-bogeyed the next and bogeyed two of the next four to stand three over with Montgomerie.