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Montgomerie clings to British Open chance

INVERNESS, Scotland – Frustration rather than delight was Colin Montgomerie’s overriding emotion Thursday despite keeping alive his hopes of qualifying for a 22nd straight British Open with an impressive 5-under 67 in the first round of the Scottish Open.

The former European Ryder Cup captain needs a top-five finish at the links course at Castle Stuart to stand a chance of maintaining his proud qualifying record for his home major.

Montgomerie put himself in a great position by making five birdies and an eagle, but a bogey at the par-4 ninth – his final hole – left him two shots off the lead.

“I’m disappointed. I played as well as I have for a long time but bogeyed the two easy holes on the course. There’s a four-shot swing,” the 48-year-old Scot said. “To miss the ninth fairway is a disaster – the thing is 110 yards wide. I should’ve pushed ahead today a little more than I did.”

Montgomerie, who has never won a major, insisted Wednesday that he would have a great chance of capturing the title at Royal St. George’s next week if he was to qualify, given the fast-running nature of the course in southeast England.

That’s a fairly optimistic assessment considering the fact he has slumped to No. 420 in the rankings during his two years as Ryder Cup captain, which took large chunks out of his playing schedule.

He is currently No. 285 and still believes he can climb back into the top 50 after decent finishes at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, England, (seventh) and the BMW International Open in Germany (18th).

“The last three weeks I’ve putted much better than I have for the last few years and that’s kept me into the cuts,” the eight-time European Order of Merit winner said. “I’m a huge competitor and I’ve got great drive and ambition to do well.”