Colin Montgomerie shrugged off his injury worries to shoot a brilliant opening 64, eight under par, at Wentworth Club to lead the Volvo PGA Championship by three shots.
Montgomerie was in serious doubt for the championship he won three times in succession from 1998 because of back trouble and only managed five holes in practice yesterday. But after intensive treatment from a specialist in Fulham, Montgomerie was fit enough to play and produced his best start in the Volvo PGA Championship and lowest round of the year.
His round included three bogeys but nine birdies and an eagle more than made up for the dropped shots as he pulled clear of the chasing pack. Andrew Coltart, Mark McNulty, Eduardo Romero and Steen Tinning finished the day his nearest challengers after rounds of 67.
Montgomerie’s front nine included four birdies and two bogeys as he reached the turn in 33 but the 38-year-old Scot then proceeded to birdie the tenth and 11th, chipped in for eagle on the 509-yard 12th and then birdied the lengthened 13th as well.
A bogey followed at the 15th, another of the holes with a new tee further back, but he finished in style with two more birdies to be only one outside the course record.
“It’s nice to get my name up there early,” said Montgomerie. “That was as good a round as my other two 64s I have shot here. I am glad to get that under my belt. I had the opportunities to score well today, took them, and that is very important.”
Montgomerie has been plagued by back problems with four discs prolapsed and leaking fluid and needs two hours to warm up before he is able to play. The pain is preventing him hitting through the ball properly but by hitting one more club he is finding more control.
“One of the best shots I hit today was a five iron on the fifth. The reason I say that is because I normally hit a six iron there but I can’t come through the ball properly and it is amazing how much more control I seem to have on the ball. I hit it to ten feet there and holed it. That is what I am doing right now, just playing within myself and trying to get round, use my new technique putting to its best effect and it seems to be working well.”
Fellow Scot Coltart moved within three shots of the lead with a back nine of 32, starting the homeward stretch with a hat-trick of birdies and then adding two more birdies on the last two holes.
“There are a few chances out there with the par fives coming home,” he said. “You have just got to remain patient and not make any clumsy errors given those opportunities on the back nine.”
McNulty, who returned to action last week after a three month break, shook off the rust to post to match Coltart’s score. His front nine included an eagle three on the fourth and two birdies to finish gave him an opening 67.
“I definitely scrambled quite well today,” he said. “Had a couple of nice up and downs from bunkers in the first seven holes which helped a lot and then finished nicely with a couple of birdies. It is always nice to put a good first round together but there is a lot of golf ahead and I don’t want to get ahead of myself.”
Steen Tinning, whose cousin Iben has won the last two events on the Ladies European Tour, showed the form which helped him win The Celtic Manor Resort Wales Open in 2000 with an opening five under par 67.
“It was a good start, nice and steady all the way round,” he said. “Before this week I’ve been struggling, making too many bogeys. Today I started with one and didn’t make another one all day so that was a lot better.”
Romero was the last of the quartet to finish. The Argentine moved to five under with a birdie on the 15th but was unable to capitalise on the two par fives to finish as he too finished with a 67.