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Montgomerie trying to keep British Open streak alive

NEWPORT, Wales – After posting his worst halfway score in Europe in 20 years, Colin Montgomerie’s major mission now is to protect a proud qualifying record for the Open Championship that stretches a little longer.

Montgomerie has played in the British Open for 21 straight years since making his debut in 1990, but that streak will be broken unless he can navigate through a qualifying event at Sunningdale on Monday for the tournament at Royal St. George’s in July.

His first top-10 finish in almost three years after coming joint seventh at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth last week raised hopes of a sustained return to form.

However, he slumped to 15 over and last place in the Wales Open on Friday, missing the cut on the Celtic Manor course where he captained Europe to Ryder Cup victory in October.

That is his worst score on the European Tour since compiling 17 over at the 1991 Benson and Hedges International in St. Meillon, England.

After opening with a 7-over 78, Montgomerie double-bogeyed Nos. 12 and 16 and added four more bogeys in a 79. He drove into the water, chipped over the green at one hole and three-putted on two others.

“I just played awful and I’m very disappointed not to be playing at the weekend, never mind contending,” Montgomerie said. “It has become very important for me, qualifying at Sunningdale now.

“I’ve not had a year where I have not competed in a major before, so I want to keep that. I’ve played in the Open for 21 years in a row and I want to keep that record going. So it’s become quite important that I compete and get through on Monday, very important.”

Possessing eight European Order of Merit titles, an unbeaten Ryder Cup singles record and 31 European Tour victories to sit fourth on the all-time list, Montgomerie is widely regarded as one of the best players to have never won a major – as demonstrated by five runner-up finishes.

But he turns 48 later this month and will likely look back at the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot as having been his best chance to change that unwanted statistic. On that occasion, he let a one-stroke lead coming into the last hole turn into a loss by the same margin to Geoff Ogilvy of Australia.

A day after his stirring finish at Wentworth, Montgomerie struggled physically in playing 36 holes on Monday at Walton Heath in a doomed attempt to compete at the U.S. Open from June 16-19.

Playing a limited schedule of tournaments in recent years due to Ryder Cup and business interests has affected the Scot’s fitness, a facet of his game that has never been a strong point.

“I’m not 25 anymore, you know,” Montgomerie said. “It takes its toll trying to compete against guys that are only doing this, and guys that are less than half my age only doing this. It does take its toll. It’s unfortunate but that’s the way it is and I’ve got to accept that sometimes.

“I played OK last week but that’s once in a bloody blue moon. That’s not enough to shout home about, and then you’re back to square one here – with a bump.”