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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 June 2006, 20:08 GMT 21:08 UK
Mellow Monty happy to 'freewheel'
Colin Montgomerie
Monty takes a deserved breather during his wonderful first round
Colin Montgomerie was back to his mid-90s best at Winged Foot on Thursday but said a more relaxed approach was the real key to his fine first round.

After carding a one-under 69 to claim the clubhouse lead, he said: "I've got four or five years left at this thing.

"I put too much pressure on myself from 1995 to 2000 to win one of these.

"It wasn't working. I didn't win because of that, possibly. Now I just have to be patient, relax. I decided to try a new method and this is it."

The 42-year-old Scot has won eight European Order of Merits, including seven in a row between 1993 and 1999, but is still chasing an elusive first major title.

I am more relaxed now - I probably wanted it a little too much before

Colin Montgomerie
He went very close at three US Opens between 1992 and 1997, and was unlucky not to win the 1992 USPGA, but there had been little sign of him in golf's biggest events until his slightly surprising second place at the Open last year.

And now, despite patchy form so far this year, the Ryder Cup stalwart is in excellent shape to challenge for a major once more.

"The expectations on me to win this in the 1990s were very high and I got close a couple of times," he said.

"The expectations have been lower the last few years and it does make a difference, you are more relaxed.

"It would not change my life if I did well here this week but it might have done in the 90s. It's nice I can go out there and freewheel and not worry about things.

"I am more relaxed now. I probably wanted it a little too much before. But it would mean as much, probably more, to do it at 42 years old than 32."

Phil Mickelson
Mickelson got himself out of tricky positions time and time again
When asked about his round, which started badly with two bogeys in the first three holes, Montgomerie said: "I'm delighted, 69 is a good score under any circumstances but especially when I was two over after three.

"It was very difficult, the greens are drying out and it's difficult to get the ball close to the hole with a 15mph wind."

But his accurate driving and pinpoint iron play got Montgomerie much closer to the pin more often than anybody else on Thursday.

The highlight of his round was probably his fantastic approach shot to the 514-yard 9th, the longest par-four in US Open history. A fairway wood to inside 10 feet set up a wonderful birdie on a hole the rest of the field struggled to par.

A close second would be the 25ft putt he holed at the 17th to get under par with a hole to play.

"This course is set up more for driving and iron play than putting, and that's in my favour," he said.

"Some weeks, it's a putting contest, and I'm not going to win that."

I was very pleased with even par, I would have taken it from the start

Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson, chasing a third straight major, is one shot behind Montgomerie and was more than satisfied with his level-par 70.

"Even par is a good score, you just try to play for par here, whether it's Thursday or Sunday," the American, who turns 36 on Friday, said.

"I happen to think over par is going to win it because I suspect the course will play harder and faster as the week wears on, making the greens tougher to hit to, to chip to and to putt on.

"I was very pleased with even par, I would have taken it from the start. With the wind it was very tough but I thought this was the fairest set-up that we've played - the graduated rough gave you a chance."

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15 Jun 06 |  Golf
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