Friday, 19 July 2002
Colin Montgomerie re-ignited his challenge for the 131st Open Golf Championship at Muirfield in spectacular fashion with a superb seven under par 64, the best round of the week and his lowest ever round in a Major Championship.

It moved the 39 year old right back into contention at four under par for the tournament and completely banished the disappointment of his opening 74 to the delight of the Scot himself and the huge East Lothian crowds who cheered him onto every green.

Other European Tour Members to shine in the drizzly rain which swept across the Muirfield links were playing partners Søren Hansen and Carl Pettersson and Ireland's Des Smyth, who all coped well with the conditions to move to five under par for the tournament, one shot ahead of Montgomerie.

But all the buzz about the course centred on Montgomerie’s effort, a new record on the lengthened Muirfield links. A birdie three at the first suggested it might be his day and when he eagled the fifth and birdied the sixth and ninth to be out in 31, that feeling was well and truly confirmed.

Five par figures followed on the back nine before a monster putt dropped for birdie on the 15th and, after missing a chance for birdie on the 17th after a superb drive, the Scot made up in style on the last, a superb approach to seven feet paving the way for a closing birdie three.

“The putt at the last broke from left to right but I was just conscious of hitting it hard enough,” said Montgomerie. “In the end it went right in the middle which was very satisfying. All in all to go from three over par to four under on this golf course, is a very good effort indeed.

“At Lytham last year I received great support but maybe it is even better here. After a good start at Lytham I kind of dwindled but here I have come back and hopefully I can keep that going and continue to go forward. The people here were wonderful today so all credit to them.”

Playing partners Hansen and Pettersson shared almost identical rounds to keep very much alive their hopes of a first Major title, both players having only two birdies on their cards. The only difference was that Pettersson, winner of the Algarve Open de Portugal in April, dropped a shot at the seventh in his 70, while Hansen, winner of the Murphy’s Irish Open last month, was flawless in his 69. Smyth, who opened with a 68, matched Hansen's second round 69 for his five under par 137 total.

Elsewhere, other European Tour Members in contention were Darren Clarke and Retief Goosen who put their indifferent opening rounds behind them in style, Clarke carding a 67 while Goosen posted a 68, to both move to three under par for the tournament.

Ulsterman Clarke, who opened with a one over par 72, soon went about putting matters right and the winner of the Compass Group English Open began his second round in spectacular fashion with two birdies and an eagle in his opening four holes.

Two other birdies followed at the ninth and tenth and although those were negated by bogeys at the sixth and 14th, Clarke did not drop any further shots and made his lunch taste a little better with a brave six foot putt for par on the 18th.

“I didn’t really have a target in mind when I went out because the course is that difficult you never really know what to expect,” said Clarke. “I just wanted to play as well as I could, make some birdies and try and get into red figures which I did. Now I’m on the fringes of contention which is good.

“Over the weekend I’m just going to try and keep on doing what I’m doing. I put in a lot of practice on the putting green the other day and that has paid off because today was one of my best putting rounds of the season.”

Goosen, a couple of matches in front of Clarke, did not have the explosive start of his European Tour colleague but an eagle three at the ninth saw the 2001 Volvo Order of Merit winner to the turn in two under par 34.

The 33 year old South African’s steady progress continued on the back nine, his only deviation from par coming at the 389 yard 11th where he made birdie three to move in sight of his second Major Championship title.

The duo were joined on three under par 139 by England’s Warren Bennett who picked up four birdies on the inward half for a second round 68 after his opening level par 71.

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