At one time No. 2 in the world, Montgomerie showed up at La Costa at a 10-year low of No. 57. That's not only a blow to his pride, but to his chances of getting into The Players Championship.
'Sometimes I got back to my room in the evenings and wonder how and why I'm in this position,' he said Tuesday. 'It's a position I've got to try to address.'
The TPC at Sawgrass is among his favorite courses in the United States. Montgomerie was poised to win in 1996 until Fred Couples' eagle-birdie-par finish for a four-shot victory.
Because he is not a PGA Tour member, Montgomerie must finish in the top 50 in the world after the Bay Hill Invitational to qualify for The Players Championship. After the Match Play Championship, he goes to the Dubai Desert Classic. Both are strong fields, and get a boost in ranking points because Tiger Woods is playing both.
Montgomerie also plans to play the Singapore Masters.
'I need to perform well -- very well in one, quite well in two,' he said. 'So that's where I am.'
Montgomerie is one of the few players who has bothered to understand how the ranking system works, and he is one of the few who doesn't complain about them.
He was No. 2 in 1997 after winning the Irish Open, and could have moved to No. 1 if he had won at Loch Lomond and Greg Norman had missed the cut on the PGA Tour.
'He didn't miss the cut, I didn't win, and the gap widened,' Montgomerie said. 'And then a Mr. Woods entered the fray and stopped everything.'
One of the most prestigious roll call of winners in golf is the World Match Play Championship in England, which includes Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros and Ernie Els.
Missing from the list is Tiger Woods, and that will have to wait.
While there was some speculation Woods might return to Wentworth this year, he said the dates (Oct. 7-10) conflict with his annual golf clinic he hosts at Disney World.
Woods played the HSBC World Match Play Championship in 1998, losing 1-up to Mark O'Meara in the finals.
Meanwhile, Woods was amused when he saw a sports ticker on television say that he had withdrawn from the Deutsche Bank-SAP Open in Germany for personal reasons.
'I never even entered the tournament,' he said.
Woods has played the German tournament the last five years, winning three times. He said his decision to skip this year is not related to Deutsche Bank now sponsoring a PGA Tour event in Boston that benefits his foundation.
'I've got the Dunlop Phoenix (Japan) at the end of the year, and I've also got Dubai (next week),' Woods said. 'Plus, I've got to go back to Ireland for the Amex. That's enough globe-trotting for one year.'
One highlight for the caddies during The Players Championship is hitting a shot in the Wednesday practice round to the island-green 17th hole at Sawgrass.
Their players chip in money and the caddie who is closest to the pin wins the pot.
John Wood is trying to turn the tradition into a fund-raiser to help Bruce Edwards, the longtime looper for Tom Watson who is dying from Lou Gehrig's disease (amyotrophic lateral schelorosis).
Wood, who caddies for Kevin Sutherland, is proposing the 'Bruce Edwards Caddie Shot to Fight ALS.'
The money would be donated in the winning caddie's name to the foundation seeking a cure for ALS. Wood also plans to ask the PGA Tour if the caddies can set up a booth on the 17th to bring attention to Edwards' plight, and give the gallery a chance to contribute.
TO THE POINT
Someone asked Colin Montgomerie whether he liked the La Costa course, whether it fits his game and whether it reminds him of anything in Europe.
'No, no and no,' he said. 'But a bloody good question all the same.'
ON THE RANGE
The biggest complaint at Riviera had nothing to do with the course, but the practice range.
What happen to all the Pro V1s?
The range was open only 40 minutes Friday morning when all the baskets of Titleist -- the ball used by the majority of PGA Tour players -- were gone.
David Toms' caddie scooped up a dozen leftover balls when another player finished warming up. Other players had no choice but to use whatever was available.
A range official, who declined to give his name, said Titleist sent 400 dozen range balls last year, and only 320 this year. Even so, some players couldn't help but notice how old and scuffed the 'new' practice balls looked.
Another possibility: The range is short, and players can hit driver over the net. Stephen Leaney was finishing the 11th hole, next to the range, and noticed some fans scooping up balls and stuffing them into their shirts.
The Senior PGA Championship is expanding its field to 156 players. ... Michelle Wie isn't the first woman from Hawaii to make the Curtis Cup team. Lori Castillo Planos, a three-time USGA champion and wife of Mercedes Championships tournament chairman Gary Planos, played on the 1980 team. But she laughed off any comparisons to Wie, the 14-year-old phenom who shot a 68 at the Sony Open. 'She's a Picasso,' Planos said. 'I'm just a local artist.' ... Tony Navarro, the longtime looper for Greg Norman, is on the bag for British Open champion Ben Curtis this week. Curtis' caddie, Andy Sutton, is home in England with a newborn son. ... Ashleigh Simon, the 14-year-old amateur invited to play in the Sunshine Tour Championship in South Africa, finished last in a field of 75 players. She had rounds of 78-79-80-79 for a 28-over 316, 43 shots behind winner Andrew McLardy. 'I enjoyed these four days, and I feel I learned a lot to take away with me,' Simon said. ... The USGA is giving exemptions to the NCAA champions into the 312-man qualifying field for the U.S. Amateur and the 156-woman field for the U.S. Women's Amateur.
STAT OF THE WEEK
The No. 2 seed has lost in the first round of the Match Play Championship the last three years.
'If we were playing in Australia, I might get in.' -- Jeff Maggert, No. 79 in the world ranking, on missing the Match Play Championship. So many top players withdrew when it was in Australia in 2001 that the tour can to go down to No. 104 to fill the field.
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