Out with the old, Montgomerie gets brand-new results

New caddie, newer clubs put Scotsman 2 from lead

76 stuffs Mickelson's shot

Notebook

British Open

July 20, 2002|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

GULLANE, Scotland - Colin Montgomerie hired a new caddie a little more than a month ago, hoping that Andy Prodger would bring him the kind of luck and magic that worked so well when Nick Faldo won the first of his three British Open titles here at Muirfield in 1987.

Then Montgomerie dumped his old set of Callaways after shooting a 3-over-par 74 in the first round of the 131st Open on Thursday. If yesterday's round of 7-under 64 is any indication that making changes could be good for one of golf's long-suffering stars, who knows what might be next?

It's doubtful that the Scotsman will scuttle his wife and kids in order to win his first major championship, but Montgomerie, 39, certainly believes that the trades he has made already helped him get in position for the second straight year to win the Open.

Last year, at Royal Lytham, Montgomerie led after each of the first two rounds before fading on the weekend, finishing tied for 13th. He is more comfortable with his position going into today's third round, two strokes off the lead.

"This ranks up there with obviously the first day last year," Montgomerie said after finishing with his best-ever score in an Open, eclipsing the opening-round 65 he shot last year. "It proves I can play the game and I'm looking forward to the weekend, especially the way I'm swinging the club now."

Whether the new set of Callaways was calibrated any differently than the old one hardly matters, but it certainly helped Montgomerie's mind-set. So does the fact that he is using Prodger, who was hired shortly after Montgomerie missed the cut at the U.S. Open.

"It is good that you have somebody on the bag that has won here before," Montgomerie said. "It's very encouraging and very positive for me to have someone on the bag that won a tournament around this course. There's very few out here that have."

Montgomerie likes his position going into the weekend this year better than he did a year ago, when his opening-round lead of three strokes was down to one after 36 holes. He shot rounds of 73 and 72 and was never a factor late.

"Leading is a very different situation than coming from behind," said Montgomerie, whose best finish in an Open was a tie for eighth at Turnberry in 1994. "Leading an Open for that length of time is a difficult task.

"Hopefully I can look back on what happened last year and use it positively."

Montgomerie, who came close to winning the U.S. Open a couple of times earlier in his career, thinks he knows what happened to him at Lytham.

"It was the putting that let me down last year and David Duval can say the opposite," Montgomerie said. "Hopefully I'm putting a lot better now and hopefully that won't happen again."

He certainly putted well yesterday, making a 20-footer for birdie on the par-4 opening hole, a 25-footer for eagle on the par-5 fifth hole and a 30-footer for birdie on the par-4 15th hole. In all, Montgomerie had five birdies and no bogeys.

"That's the most important that happened today, for getting the score or whatever happened was I didn't drop a shot [to par]," Montgomerie said. "If I can keep doing that, I have a chance here."

Winning the Open would be the biggest change of all.

Major flop continues

Make that 0-for-41 in majors for Phil Mickelson.

After shooting a 3-under 68 in the opening round, Mickelson drove into the rough on the par-4 first hole and wound up with a double bogey. He also appeared to injure his left arm trying to hit out of the rough, but didn't use it as an excuse after shooting 5-over 76.

"I'm not about to give up with two rounds left, but my play today has put me in an unfortunate position," said Mickelson, who was left at 2-over 144 and barely made the cut. "The thing is, I didn't hit too many good shots today."

Among those to miss the cut were two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal of Spain (72-145), former British Open champion Tom Lehman (76-146), former Masters and PGA champion Vijay Singh (75-147) and former British Open and PGA champion John Daly (77-151).

Not easy to make out

Carl Pettersson is listed as being from Sweden, which is where he was born and lived until he was 10 before moving to England. But Pettersson could be considered the low American on the leader board at Muirfield, given that he has lived in North Carolina the past 10 years.

"I've had a good year on the European Tour so far and have been in contention nearly every week," said Petterson, who shared the first-round lead with PGA Tour journeymen David Toms and Duffy Waldorf at 4-under and is now at 5-under 137. "My expectations are very high."

After playing high school golf in Greensboro, Pettersson played collegiately at North Carolina State. As a member of the Wolfpack, Pettersson won an NCAA tournament regional event by four shots but was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard.

"In college you learn to compete every day, having to qualify for tournaments and play as a team and play in great tournaments," said Pettersson, 24. "As soon as you turn pro, we've seen guys go right to the PGA Tour or European Tour. I'm trying to qualify for the PGA Tour next year."

A good enough finish here could get Pettersson on his way.

He just has to make sure he signs the correct scorecard.

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