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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 May 2006, 16:06 GMT 17:06 UK
K Club conundrum
By Rob Hodgetts
BBC Sport at Wentworth

Overcast, with storm clouds gathering and some lighter patches - generally a touch inclement for the time of year. And that was just Colin Montgomerie.

But at least he's not headed for another missed cut. Yet. The great Scot scowled his way to a one-over 73 in the first round of the PGA Championship at Wentworth.

Colin Montgomerie
After a superb 2005, Montgomerie is finding 2006 very hard going
Montgomerie has missed seven cuts in his last nine events worldwide. And there are stirrings that he may not be the force of old come the Ryder Cup in September.

The team talisman leads the list for points earned on the European Tour and it is unfathomable that he will not make the Ryder Cup team by right, courtesy of his stellar finish to last season.

The 42-year-old claimed his eighth European Order of Merit and climbed from 81st in the world at the end of 2004 to eighth a year later.

"He's just having one of his downs," said European captain Ian Woosnam on Wednesday.

"Maybe when it comes around to the Ryder Cup he'll be having one of his ups again. He obviously seems to get himself up for the Ryder Cup.

"If he's playing really poorly at the time, I'll be having a chat to him to see how he feels about his form. Not to say he's not playing, but how he feels and whether he would like to play and whatsoever."

But the early omens on Thursday were good at the West Course, where Montgomerie is a three-time winner.

Looking relaxed and cheery, he shook his head and chuckled at the travelling Dunblane chapter of the Colin Montgomerie fan club - four lads resplendent in curly blonde wigs, red tartan "troosers" and white "We're with Monty" t-shirts.

There was even a lone female sporting a "Monty is the gr8test" t-shirt.

Colin Montgomerie fans at Wentworth
The eight-time European number one is never short of support
Playing with Irishman Padraig Harrington and former Open champion Ben Curtis, Montgomerie began in imperious fashion only to miss his 20ft birdie putt at the 1st by inches.

But the infamous shoulder-slump soon appeared as he drove through the green on the short second en route to a bogey. And then it started raining.

Montgomerie hit back immediately with a birdie and, as if his mood was hot-wired to the weather, the sun came out.

But the rest of his round was distinctly mixed - seven straight pars, a birdie and two bogeys.

There were huffs here, puffs there and silent mutterings everywhere. Except the 17th tee, when they were definitely vocal.

A three-putt par at the last saw Montgomerie storm into the recorders hut and escape back out the way he came to avoid waiting reporters on the other side.

"He always turns it on for the Ryder Cup. He'll be fine," claimed one of the nervous Monty-ettes, James Mungavin, a 20-year-old student from Glasgow University.

Ireland's Harrington, meanwhile, has Ryder Cup worries of his own.

He carded a level-par 72 but has played much of the early season in America, performing steadily without really threatening.

The 34-year-old is outside the top 10 on either the European or world Ryder Cup ranking list, and as it stands would have to rely on the generosity of Woosnam for a wildcard.

Padraig Harrington
Harrington is desperate to play, and play well, for Europe at the K Club
The top five on each list plus two captain's picks make up the team for the 22-24 September clash.

A Ryder Cup in Ireland without Harrington - and compatriot Paul McGinley is no dead cert to qualify either after his recent knee surgery - is unthinkable.

But Harrington knows he needs a big result to extinguish Woosnam's worries.

Trouble is, Harrington has a long-time phobia of Wentworth and avoided the event for several years. "It doesn't come easy to me," he said of the West Course.

He says he finds the greens "unbelievably tough" to read, to which a host of missed birdie putts and some three-putts will testify.

"It drains you of confidence if you're not making birdies," he said afterwards.

"If you can get a couple of those and get under par here you're flying and can go from two under to four under easily. But if not, you just can't get away from it. [par]

"And it's just going to get harder as it dries out."

It's only the first round and the weather may be brightening up. But down the road some players are destined to be frozen out of the Ryder Cup.



SEE ALSO
Bjorn eyes automatic Ryder berth
23 May 06 |  European Tour


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