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All eyes on Monty

other Updated: Feb 27, 2008 23:30 IST
Robin Bose

By his admission, Colin Montgomerie fares better in a team environment than "having to do it myself." Drawing from his love for cricket and the team spirit the game fosters, the world No. 54 has featured in titanic struggles in the Ryder Cup and held centrestage, but when it comes to the "not too bad record on my own", the sharp-witted Scot is ready to accept help from any quarter.

Going into the $2.5 million Johnnie Walker Classic, 'Monty', who looks well beyond his 44 years under the sun, would be hoping the DLF Golf and Country Club provides him an opportunity to narrow the disparity. Given the form the iconic golfer from Troon has been in, the wish could well be granted.

Montgomerie ended a 19-month drought by winning the Smurfit Kappa European Open in July to surpass Nick Faldo's 30 European Tour titles. A World Cup triumph followed and since then, form's been on the upswing.

The tied ninth in the WGC-Accenture Match Play, where he beat world No. 6 Jim Furyk before bowing to runner-up Stewart Cink, bolstered Montgomerie further and had him uttering on Wednesday, "I've been driving very well, as well as ever."

Aiding the pursuit would be the potential heady combination of necessity and affinity. The US Masters weighing on his mind, Montgomerie has been collecting World Ranking points and the task is cut out as he attempts to get into the top-50 to make the cut-off for the Major.

Making the task easier would be his affection for the event from the "Johnnie Walker World Championship days to me being the chairman at Gleneagles and the Classic here in Asia".

The script has been written but for it to be acted out, Montgomerie would have to counter the threat from Vijay Singh, Adam Scott, Sam Torrance, Ian Poulter, Anton Haig, who became youngest champion in Phuket last year, and last but not the least the Indian challenge.

"I believe there will be at least one Indian competing here to win", were Montgomerie's words and going by the performance in the past few weeks, the finger should point at Jyoti Randhawa, who was the flag-bearer in the Indian Masters and SAIL Open.

Randhawa has a piece of history going for him on his home course and he could be the third after Graeme McDowell and Markus Brier to win a tournament at the turf they were attached to.

Despite his poor record at home, Jeev Milkha Singh, who lost the Indonesia Open title narrowly, could well be a dark horse in the Indian camp which also includes Shiv Kapur, the resurgent Arjun Atwal and the man on a current high -S.S.P. Chowrasia.

All the contestants would be putting into effect their own ways of getting about the course, which they all agreed was a tricky one with its undulating greens and the gusting wind.

After missing out at the Match Play despite being in good touch, Vijay would be keen to make amends and the world No. 11 had a plan in place "for some of the risky holes and being on the right side of the greens".

But the man who could be the biggest hurdle in Montgomerie's path is world No. 5 Scott. Tipped as the one to challenge Tiger Woods's supremacy, the 27-year-old fired an 11-under card on the final day of the Qatar Masters.

Though falling in line in his call for a "strategy" here, the Australian sounded an ominous warning, "I have the right attitude and mindset to go with a game that suits most places".