Tennis fan Colin Montgomerie, who attended Wimbledon last week to assist in his relaxed build-up to the Smurfit European Open, called for new balls – and served up an impressive opening round in his bid to win one of the few prestigious European Tour titles to elude him so far.
Montgomerie is playing a tournament for the first time with new Callaway golf balls, and the switch has astounded even the long-hitting Scot, who was one of three players to open with a five under par 67 at The K Club.
Massimo Scarpa of Italy, Argentina’s Angel Cabrera and Montgomerie all took advantage of the still morning conditions to share the lead, one stroke ahead of Swede Pierre Fulke and Peter Mitchell of England.
Montgomerie had started with eight straight pars before the benefit of the new golf ball could be seen. A soaring three wood flew 269 yards onto the green at the 18th (his ninth) and Montgomerie sank the resulting ten footer putt for an eagle.
That kick-started his round as the seven-time European No.1 birdied the next four holes before a couple of bogeys halted his momentum. However not even those dropped shots – redeemed by a final birdie at the sixth – could dampen Montgomerie’s enthusiasm for his new ‘toy’.
He said: “I don’t want to sound like a salesman about this ball, but I hit my three woods 269 yards. I wouldn’t have gone for the shot with my old ball. That set me going and I took confidence from that shot.
“It’s very exciting using a new product and out-driving people by a long way. It’s interesting and exciting and I like to be excited at this stage of my career. It’s great. I’m hitting it a long way. Down the 18th I must have gained 30 yards over the two shots. That second – I won’t hit a better shot than that.”
Scarpa, who shot 28 for nine holes in the Murphy’s Irish Open last week, made seven birdies in his round, which involved him displaying his ambidextrous nature. The Italian, who plays right handed, has two left hand wedges in his bag and often elects to play them.
He explained: “I started to play golf left handed and changed when I was 14 years old. That is the reason. But I’ve not been very good right handed in terms of my short game. I usually change to left handed for shots of 50 to 60 yards away. I play left handed maybe once a year with friends and I beat them most of the time!”
Cabrera, who had an eagle and three birdies on his card, once again showed a liking for the Irish air. Last year he finished second in the Murphy’s Irish Open and sixth in the Smurfit European Open.
He said: “My drives and irons are all very good but I need to make some putts. My game is not far away. If I can gt my putter going I’ll not be far away. I like this course and I like Ireland!”
Paul McGinley, The K Club’s touring professional, used his local knowledge to steer his way round in 69, three under par, to be leading Irish player after the first round. McGinley, who tied for third in the Murphy’s Irish Open last week, believes it is only a matter of time before a home player wins in Ireland.
He admitted: “The pressure comes from within because we are so proud to be Irish. You want to do well in your home tournament so badly. That’s what the pressure is. It is only a matter of time before it happens. The quality is there. It’s only a matter of breaking through.”First round video highlightsSecond round tee-timesFull leaderboard