Monty on a mission to protect British Open record

After posting his worst halfway score in Europe in 20 years,

Colin Montgomerie’s major mission now is to protect a proud

qualifying record for the British Open that stretches a little

longer.

Montgomerie has played in the British Open for 21 straight years

since making his debut in 1990, but that streak will be broken

unless he can navigate through a qualifying event at Sunningdale on

Monday for the tournament at Royal St. George’s in July.

His first top-10 finish in almost three years after coming joint

seventh at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth last week raised

hopes of a sustained return to form.

However, he slumped to 15 over and last place in the Wales Open

on Friday, missing the cut on the Celtic Manor course where he

captained Europe to Ryder Cup victory in October.

That is his worst score on the European Tour since compiling 17

over at the 1991 Benson and Hedges International in St. Meillon,

England.

After opening with a 7-over 78, Montgomerie double-bogeyed Nos.

12 and 16 and added four more bogeys in a 79. He drove into the

water, chipped over the green at one hole and three-putted on two

others.

”I just played awful and I’m very disappointed not to be

playing at the weekend, never mind contending,” Montgomerie said.

”It has become very important for me, qualifying at Sunningdale

now.

”I’ve not had a year where I have not competed in a major

before, so I want to keep that. I’ve played in The Open for 21

years in a row and I want to keep that record going. So it’s become

quite important that I compete and get through on Monday, very

important.”

Possessing eight European Order of Merit titles, an unbeaten

Ryder Cup singles record and 31 European Tour victories to sit

fourth on the all-time list, Montgomerie is widely regarded as one

of the best players to have never won a major – as demonstrated by

five runner-up finishes and a career-high ranking of No. 2.

But he turns 48 later this month and will likely look back at

the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot as having been his best chance to

change that unwanted statistic. On that occasion, he let a

one-stroke lead coming into the last hole turn into a loss by the

same margin to Geoff Ogilvy of Australia.

A day after his stirring finish at Wentworth, Montgomerie

struggled physically in playing 36 holes on Monday at Walton Heath

in a doomed attempt to compete at the U.S. Open from June

16-19.

Playing a limited schedule of tournaments in recent years due to

Ryder Cup and business interests has affected the Scot’s fitness, a

facet of his game that has never been a strong point.

”I’m not 25 anymore, you know,” Montgomerie said. ”It takes

its toll trying to compete against guys that are only doing this,

and guys that are less than half my age only doing this. It does

take its toll. It’s unfortunate but that’s the way it is and I’ve

got to accept that sometimes.

”I played OK last week but that’s once in a bloody blue moon.

That’s not enough to shout home about, and then you’re back to

square one here – with a bump.”