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Montgomerie keeps on rolling

Posted: Friday, October 07, 2005

SAN FRANCISCO — Coming off his first victory in 19 months, Colin Montgomerie appears hungry for more.

Montgomerie showed no effects from an emotional victory four days ago in Scotland, matching his career-low score in the United States with a 6-under 64 that gave him a three-shot lead Thursday in the American Express Championship.

Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh and nine others were at 67 on a spectacular day at Harding Park, the municipal course along Lake Merced that got a $16 million makeover and held its own against the world’s best players.

It was right up Montgomerie’s alley.

He looked like the Monty of old with tee shots that split the tree-lined fairways, making the game look simple. The 42-year-old Scot ran off three straight birdies to close out the back nine, then added his lone birdie on the front with a wedge into 18 inches. What mattered more to him was no bogeys on his card.

‘‘If I can hit fairways, I can hit greens,’’ he said. ‘‘And then I can score.’’

Woods, who played Harding Park in junior high school when it was covered with weeds, stayed close until he stopped giving himself good chances, dropping a shot on the par-3 eighth and having to scramble for par at the end.

‘‘If I shot something between 2- and 4-under par, I thought it would be pretty good,’’ Woods said. ‘‘They’ve done a wonderful job tucking the pins. The greens are firm, so you’ve got to be careful.’’

It was the first test at Harding Park, which had not hosted golf’s best players since the late 1960s. The course is considered relatively short at 7,086 yards, although the firm greens with subtle contours kept anyone from going outrageously low.

‘‘A muni just means it’s owned by the city,’’ Phil Mickelson said after stumbling to a 71. ‘‘It doesn’t mean it’s an easy or hard course.’’

It was plenty easy for Montgomerie.

He missed only two greens, and saved par both times with 10-foot putts that kept his momentum going — not only in the opening round, but in a summer that has turned his fortunes around more than he could have imagined.

Montgomerie fell as low as No. 83 in the world ranking and failed to qualify for The Players Championship and the Masters in the spring. But as he coped with a divorce last year and controversy over an apparent rules breach in March at the Indonesian Open, he suddenly finds himself headed toward the top.

He was runner-up to Woods at the British Open, then returned to St. Andrews to win the Dunhill Links Championship last week with a birdie on the final hole, moving him to No. 16 in the world and within range of an eighth Order of Merit on the European tour.

Then came his 64, matching the 7-under 64 he shot at Riviera in the second round of the Nissan Open in February.

‘‘Ninety percent of it is carryover from Sunday,’’ he said. ‘‘If I finished third or fourth on Sunday, I wouldn’t have shot 64 today, simple as that.’’

Better yet, it gave him optimism about winning an official tournament in the United States. Montgomerie has been runner-up four times, three of those in the majors.

‘‘I would love to win in America. There’s no secret to that,’’ he said.

Longs Drugs Challenge

AUBURN, Calif. — Cristie Kerr had consecutive eagles in a career-best 9-under 62 to take a four-stroke lead in the first round of the Longs Drugs Challenge.

Kerr also had seven birdies and two bogeys on The Ridge Golf Club course. She played an eight-hole stretch in 9 under, highlighted by her eagles on Nos. 15 and 16.

After opening the round with bogeys on Nos. 10 and 11, Kerr parred the 12th and began her scoring run with birdies on Nos. 13 and 14. She hit a 6-iron to 6 feet to up her eagle on the par-5 15th, holed out from 139 yards with an 8-iron for another eagle on the par-4 16th and added birdies on Nos. 17, 1, 2, 5 and 7.

The 27-year-old Kerr won the 2002 tournament at Twelve Bridges Golf Club for the first of her six LPGA Tour victories. She two victories this year — the Michelob Ultra Open at Kingsmill in May and the Wendy’s Championship for Children in August — and also played on the winning Solheim Cup team after topping the U.S. standings.

Abama Open de Canarias

TENERIFE, Canary Islands — Argentina’s Andres Romero and Sweden’s Johan Skold shot 5-under 66s to share the first-round lead in the Abama Open de Canarias.

Skold three-putted the 18th green for his only bogey of the round. The 24-year-old Romero won the Morson International Pro-Am Challenge on the Challenge Tour in August and is 10th on the developmental circuit’s money list.

English left-hander Stuart Little was two strokes back along with Scotland’s Marc Warren and David Patrick and South Africa’s Titch Moore.



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