- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 21, 2001

LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England Tiger Woods already has begun toying with Monty's mind.
Colin Montgomerie backed up his opening 65 with a second-round 70 at Lytham & St. Annes yesterday to reach 7 under and take a one-stroke lead into the weekend of the 130th British Open. But the 38-year-old Scot is already showing signs that his perch atop the leader board is somewhat uncomfortable.
"I would have taken 70 at the beginning of the day," said Montgomerie, seemingly growing more serious by the moment. "It's not easy playing from the front like that, and having to always look over one's shoulder is never an easy task."
Monty, of course, was craning his neck for the one man on the property capable of paralyzing any player with his presence on the leader board. Like most of those on the 6,905-yard, par-71 layout, Montgomerie anticipated a Woodsian charge.
And the 25-year-old titan did not disappoint.
Woods scratched his way up the board behind Montgomerie despite tucked pin positions that protected the layout on an otherwise ideal scoring day. He fashioned a 68 that took him to 3 under, just four strokes and seven players adrift of the Scot.
"I feel pretty good about where I am at right now," said Woods, who had only a handful of makeable birdie putts despite hitting 15 greens. "Even with the wind down, this golf course was not playing easy today… . But right now we're just trying to get ourselves up on that board and as close to the lead as possible."
That philosophy obviously holds for any tournament. But when the lead is held by Montgomerie, a volatile sort whose entire career represents a futile odyssey to find a first major, applying pressure both on the course and off could produce implosive results.
Montgomerie, who once again putted beautifully to compensate for six missed greens, is acutely aware of Woods' position. He admitted he spent much of his free time on the course scoreboard-watching and waiting for Woods to join the chase.
"We all have an eye on [Woods]. He's the best player in the world by some margin," said Montgomerie in a moment of candor rare for the game's cadre of high-profile competitors. "He must be quite comfortable in that position he's in… . If I was as good as him and had the future ahead of me that he has, then I'd be quite at ease myself and so would you.
"He's the defending champion. He's got nothing left to prove… . I'm not in that position."
Nope, and Woods knows that all too well so well, in fact, that in his post-round news conference he decided to plant a sadistic little seed in the fertile soil that is Monty's overactive mind. Asked what he thought major-less Montgomerie must be feeling as the halfway leader of his home championship, Woods initially deflected the question before firing a subtle salvo in Monty's direction.
"I know that he wants to win this championship as much as any of us do," said Woods, in search of his seventh major title. "I don't know how he's going to feel come Sunday afternoon if he's got a chance to win. I don't know how he's going to feel, because obviously I'm not in his shoes.
"I've won major championships, and I've won the Open championship, and that in itself relieves a lot of tension, a lot of pressure, because you know what it takes. If you haven't won one, then it becomes a little more difficult, I think, because you are thinking about what does it really take."
No doubt, that is exactly what Monty is thinking about as he sleeps on the midway lead with Woods lurking in his wake. Maybe he is also thinking about today's draw, which has Woods paired with best friend Mark O'Meara (3 under) a fact that might make Tiger feel even more comfortable as he pursues his Scottish prey. Or perhaps, if he has watched the highlights, Montgomerie is shaking his head at the remarkable bit of luck that helped Woods through yesterday's round.
In what could turn out to be the key early hole of the event, Woods blocked a drive a least 50 yards right of his intended target off the 14th tee. But instead of finding the deep rough that lines the right side of the hole, or the unplayable deep grass even further right of that, Woods' ball came to rest on the 12-yard path of rough between a narrow strip of salvation that had been trampled down by the massive galleries at Lytham.
"I hit a terrible drive there," said Woods, who parlayed the fortunate break into a pitching wedge approach and 30-foot birdie bomb. "I was fortunate enough that I hit it right of the rough, where the gallery is, and they had stomped it all down, which is nice. I had a decent lie and hit a good shot up there… . It's like a car-park birdie, you know. Seve Ballesteros did it on No. 16 [in 1979], and I was fortunate enough to do it on 14."
Ballesteros turned his final-round drive into one of Lytham's parking lots into the birdie that defined his first major triumph. Unfortunately for the rest of the 70 players who survived yesterday's cut, Woods has the same fated look that carried Ballesteros through in '79. And unfortunately for the tens of thousands on hand rooting for the sweet-swinging Scot, Monty looks like the same slightly unstable character who always has been susceptible to emotional manipulation.
"The mental factor comes into it 99 percent from now on," Montgomerie said. "If you are not mentally right, there's no point in taking out a club."

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide