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Opinion: Colin Montgomerie irritably close to U.S. Senior Open lead

rpench@sacbee.com

The distractible defending champ cranked his club backward on the second tee Friday when something interfered with his ultra-sensitive attention span.

“Marshal! Marshal,” Colin Montgomerie bellowed as he stepped back from his ball.

No, Monty did not need help from one of the purple-shirted course officials. Rather, the Scotsman who won last year’s U.S. Senior Open and is trying to repeat this year in Sacramento, was berating one of the poor fellows.

“You can’t move when I’m in my backswing,” Montgomerie instructed.

It was the latest of two days of disturbances that bothered Montgomerie at Del Paso Country Club.

If it wasn’t a marshal who got under Monty’s thin skin, it was a golf cart idling when he was getting ready to hit.

“Stop the buggie, please,” the bugged Montgomerie demanded.

He verbally jumped a couple TV guys on the 14th green. It appeared their equipment bobbed a millimeter as Montgomery prepared to putt.

“In your own time, lads,” he told them, just before he missed a putt and walked off the green with a bogey – glaring back at the broadcast crew on his way out.

Fox Sports subbed in a new spotter to monitor Montgomerie’s round Friday, after the first-day guy drew a bit of Monty’s wrath.

Whether he was overly sensitive or easily distracted, Montgomerie’s demand for calm appears to work for him.

There was no doubt he was very focused and determined and playing at a high enough level to win a tournament that last year paid him $630,000. The winner’s share this year was not determined as of mid-afternoon Friday.

Monty strides with purpose down the fairways to stalk his blasts that mostly wind up down the middle. He paces the green and attacks his ball from the rear, making everything no worse than a two-putt, mixed in with the occasional birdie. He steps back to admire his many fine shots and shows demonstrable exasperation when the ball doesn’t do what he wants. He’ll twirl a club after a shot. Between attempts, he crosses his feet with one toe to the turf, shifting his weight to the opposite side, one hand on his hip and the other balancing his roly-poly frame on a club.

Two rounds into the tournament, you’ll find his name listed with the best of golf’s older generation. Montgomerie, who turned 52 Tuesday, shot a 2-under-par 68 on Thursday and came back with same Friday to leave himself one shot off the lead.

“Two 68s is safe,” he said at his post-round news conference. “Didn’t hole much today. Holed a couple putts yesterday ... three birdies and a bogey, nothing to shout home about. But, yeah, you know, (I’m) determined as anyone to try and win this again.”

If he seemed abrupt to the crowd, that’s just the way Montgomerie is on the course, and it’s just the way it will probably be with him for the next two days, too.

“There’s a lot of people watching – the crowds were great,” Montgomerie said. “There were just a couple marshals moving in their own time, trying to stop cameras or whatever the case may be. It’s always going to be that way when you’re in a marquee group, and I suspect it will be similar tomorrow. So you just have to be patient, let the caddie do most of the talking to spectators or whatever, and let everyone enjoy themselves.”

Bernhard Langer, the 1985 and 1993 Masters champion, and Pat Tallent, the defending U.S. Senior Amateur champion, joined Monty for the first two rounds. Nothing bothered them enough to call anybody out.

Maybe the weather was a factor.

On Thursday, the thermometer reached 100 by the time Monty teed off at 1:27 p.m. For the day, Montgomerie had no fewer than four noticeable negative interactions with noncombatants, including once when he outstretched his hand with his palm up in the manner of a traffic cop when a fan yakked it up on a cellphone right before Monty shot for the green.

Montgomerie confirmed heat took a toll, if not on his relationship with the fans and course workers then at least with his concentration.

“When you’re over the ball and your head’s spinning because of the heat and what have you, being out there for five hours, it’s difficult to concentrate in that amount of heat,” he said.

On Friday, the weather was 30 degrees cooler when Montgomerie’s group teed off at 7:42 a.m. In the more comfortable morning air, he went public with his consternation only once, when he excoriated the marshal on the second hole. And he finished the round with a birdie for the back-to-back 68s.

“It proves that things are OK,” Montgomerie said of Friday’s finish.

Maybe it would be better if he handled distractions better. But maybe that wouldn’t be Monty.

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