Tuesday 20 March 2018

Montgomerie gets that old Major buzz on senior debut

Colin Montgomerie in action Royal Birkdale yesterday
Colin Montgomerie in action Royal Birkdale yesterday

Colin Montgomerie played his debut round in the Senior British Open yesterday and said it felt like "a proper Major."

The Scot went out in the windier conditions at Royal Birkdale and was content with his two-over 72, five off the pace. However, in outscoring his playing partners, Fred Couples and Mark O'Meara, by two shots he achieved his first mission.

"I thought that if I could stick with them, or do a little better, I'd be well placed," he said.

Montgomerie, who turned 50 last month, was unsure how the veterans' version would compare to the three Opens he played on the famous Lancashire links.

"I stood on the first tee and it was the same feeling," the Scot said. "This is a proper test of golf and feels like a proper Major."

After parring the first nine holes, Montgomerie carded three bogeys, but fought back, playing his last six holes in one under – the birdie thanks to a 20-foot putt on the 16th.

He will want to make inroads this morning, with many big names ahead, including Bernhard Langer. The German, one-over with four remaining, birdied the par-five 15th and 17th, and then played a brilliant approach shot the last to finish on two-under, one behind Gene Sauers.

The leader's 67 was even more impressive because he was one of the later starters. The American's round featured a back nine which included four birdies and a bogey and afterwards Sauers revealed why he was "happy to be able to walk around" the course.

Three years ago he was lying in hospital suffering from a rare skin condition, which clogged up the blood vessels in his limbs and turned his skin black. "My skin was burning itself from the inside out," he said. "I thought I was going to die. I was wrongly diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and given drugs for a long time which didn't work. This is a huge bonus."

And what of the Irish challenge? Well, quiet man Philip Walton is known to like and appreciate Royal Birkdale, and the 51-year-old Dubliner gave himself a solid start with a round of level-par 70 to lie just three shots off the pace.

This is his second year on the European Seniors Tour and Walton appears to be showing some nice form.

The Ryder Cup hero of 1995 has kept himself active on the local PGA Irish Region and recently finished joint first with Damien McGrane in Carne, followed by a fourth place in his own Philip Walton Pro-Am at Dundrum House.

He opened briskly with a brace of birdies, but Birkdale giveth and Birkdale taketh, and eventually it was a balancing act by Walton as he carded five birdies and five bogeys.

Mark McNulty, Zimbabwe-born but an Irish citizen, was also in the large group on level par.

Christy O'Connor Jnr, the British Senior champion of 1999 and 2000, showed there is still a touch of class about his game and closed with 75, as did Cork's Denis O'Sullivan.

O'Connor, like many of the players, felt the par of 70 was too tough for the Senior Tour competitors.


"It was very tough, and very long. I three-putted the last which was a pity. They turned a couple of par-fives into par-fours and it's too long. We had wind all day and you had to dig deep for pars, which I did, but it will be tough again tomorrow," he said.

Des Smyth, ranked 16 in the Seniors Tour order of merit, made a steady start with seven consecutive pars, but he found trouble on the eighth and ninth holes, where he took bogey, double-bogey respectively. After that it was a struggle as the wind freshened and Smyth finished up with a six-over-par 76.

Eamonn Darcy aggravated a shoulder injury early on and only played seven holes before retiring from the championship. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Disappointment for McDowell

GRAEME McDOWELL shot a disappointing opening round of 76 in the Canadian Open in Oakville, Ontario. His two birdies and six bogeys left him trailing American Brendan Steele by a massive 11 strokes, leaving the irishman with a lot to do to make the weekend.

Senior British Open

Live, Sky Sports 1, 11.30 and 4.0

Canadian Open

Live, Sky Sports 3, 8.0

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