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  Friday, 20 July, 2001, 13:26 GMT 14:26 UK
Monty's battle of the bulge
BBC Sport Online profiles golf's leading slimmer, Colin Montgomerie
BBC Sport Online's Matt Slater wonders if Colin Montgomerie's return to golfing form has anything to do with the return of his more familiar physical form.

When Tony Jacklin accused Colin Montgomerie, Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood of lacking hunger on the eve of The Open, it was evident that he was not referring to their eating habits.

The criticism seemed particularly harsh on Montgomerie, as the seven-time European number one has clearly rediscovered his appetite.

After spending most of last year as quite literally a shadow of his former self, the Scot, who has been dubbed Mrs Doubtfire by the size-ist US media, has re-emerged this week at something much closer to his former fighting weight.

I think we all have a sort of fighting weight
Colin Montgomerie
Like Samson after his haircut, the streamlined Monty cut a forlorn figure on the golf course.

On Thursday, back to his bouncing best, Montgomerie devoured the Royal Lytham course to take a hearty three-shot lead into Friday's second round.

"I think we all have a sort of fighting weight, if you like," said Montgomerie after posting his best ever first round at The Open.

"Obviously, leading The Open, there is nothing wrong with the weight right now.

"I lost a lot of weight toward the end of last year. I have put on half of that again and it must help with the timing, yes, sure."

This is a far cry from the skinny Montgomerie of 12 months ago.

Colin Montgomerie
Filling his jumpers again, Monty is back on top
Having shed a stone in the fortnight between last year's Open and the start of the Volvo Scandinavian Masters in August, Monty appeared to be delighted with his reduced profile.

"It gives me great self-esteem and makes me feel good about myself," he said.

"That's half the battle out on the golf course. I walk a bit taller."

One year later and that stooped, but determined, Monty waddle is back.

And now that he can fit into his old clothes again, there are many who are hoping Montgomerie will be able to stay the course and finally claim the Major title that has so far eluded him.

In fact, there is no need to turn to the Bible to find examples of a great man reduced to weakness by the loss of a trademark physical trait.

Golf's recent history contains a chapter that will take on a prophetic significance if Monty can hold on to his lead.

Craig Stadler
Stadler's golf appears to be linked to his waist line
Former US Masters champion Craig "The Walrus" Stadler refound his form earlier this year when he returned to his more familiar shape.

The famously rotund golfer saw his game go to pot when he joined his wife on a diet two years ago.

"I lost a lot of weight real quick," Stadler said after his impressive showing in January's World Match Play event in Melbourne.

"I lost 55lbs in three and a half months and my golf went to hell at the end of it. I lost almost six inches on my waist and I was playing horrible.

"Probably unfortunately I decided to put back 10 or 12 (pounds) to see if it would help my game.

"I started playing well again and then put on another 10 or 12. I started having fun again."

Another 14 pounds on over the next two months and a further 10 over Christmas had the 47-year-old Stadler feeling himself again. The effect on his golf was as obvious as that on his waistline.

Lee Westwood
Westwood is one of golf's big talents
As for the other two players whose hunger was questioned by Jacklin, Westwood and Clarke, there does appear to be a parting of the ways.

While Clarke is a little lighter on his feet these days, Westwood remains a committed member of golf's heavyweight division.

Not for him any Vanessa Feltz-style weight fluctuations la Monty. Westwood is a big man and proud of it.

When skin-and-bones American golfer David Duval tried to suggest to Westwood that he lay off the lard and ale for a while, the Englishman had a short, sharp response.

"If I wanted to be an athlete I would have taken up 400m running," the European number one said.

"I don't like to think of myself as an athlete. I'm a professional golfer."

Westwood is clearly a subscriber to the Stadler school of physical fitness.

After all, how many Majors has David 'skimmed milk' Duval won?

Whether either Monty or the still portly Clarke - who was only a few shots off the lead after the first round - can win one for fatties remains to be seen.

But one thing is certain: golfers, like most people, perform better when they are happy. And for some people being thin just isn't any fun.

The 130th Open, at Royal Lytham

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20 Jul 01 | The Open
05 Jan 01 | Sport Front Page
19 Jul 00 | Sport Front Page
09 Oct 00 | Golf
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