Senior Open: Montgomerie drops to eight off lead

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IT DIDN’T take long for Colin Montgomerie to return to old ways in the new chapter of his career, declining to comment on a second-round 71 that left him eight off the lead at the halfway stage in the Senior Open Championship.

In fairness, it was probably an indication of the competitive streak still burning inside him and, in a welcome change from some tantrums in his European Tour days, he did stop after emerging from the recorder’s tent to sign a few autographs.

But, in declining to do an interview with Sky Sports, for whom he works occasionally, and a posse of Scottish golf writers, it was the first indication that he has not become as laid-back as he had claimed since turning 50. “I’m much more relaxed, on and off the course,” he said in his pre-event interview at Royal Birkdale. “The intensity has reduced and I’m enjoying my golf more than ever.”

Five off the lead before his second round, he would not have enjoyed following a bogey at the second by dropping two more shots when running up a 6 at the third. After digging deep to get back to level-par for the day as he struggled with his driving, he was clearly irked by a clumsy chip from through the back of the green that cost him a closing bogey.

As Montgomerie headed off – he returned later in the afternoon for a session on the practice range – playing partner Mark O’Meara spoke about his unsettling experience after hitting a female spectator in the face with a stray shot on the opening day. It left the woman with blood pouring from her mouth and, though lucky not to have any of her teeth broken, she later required some stitches at a local hospital.

“I was in the rough and it just came out low, left, quick and I saw the woman – her name is Jean but I’m not sure of her surname – grab her mouth,” said the American. “I ran to her right away with my towel and tried to put pressure on it – but it makes you sick to your stomach.

“I was still thinking about it last night and my wife knew how devastated I was. It didn’t keep me awake, but I wanted to know she was alright. When I knew she was okay, I was very appreciative of that.

“I always carry some Masters flags with me so I’m going to sign one of them for her and try to get it to her today to make sure she knows that I’m thinking about her.”

It’s not the first time O’Meara has hit a spectator and, having been struck himself, he knows how painful a golf ball travelling at speed can be when it collides with the human body. “I hit a guy in Boston one time. I split his forehead open. So I got his name and address and sent him a Scotty Cameron putter – so maybe that wasn’t too bad a deal for him!” added the 1998 Open winner here.

“I got smoked once myself. I flew to Houston about five years ago to meet my current wife. We played golf the next day and I was teeing a ball up on the 16th tee at Houston Country Club when some guy sniped it off 17.

“It hit me right on the forehead on the fly and just took me out. It split my forehead wide open but I was okay because luckily that’s the hardest part of your skull – and being an Irishman I’m not that smart anyway. It knocked enough common sense into me that I ended up marrying the girl I came to meet. She’s my wife of four years, so I’m a lucky guy.”