Colin Montgomerie continues to set the pace in the WGC – American Express Championship as he holds a one stroke lead over fellow European Tour Members David Howell and John Daly at Harding Park Golf Course, San Francisco.
Montgomerie battled against jet-lag as he grinded out a one under par 69 to move to seven under par 133 on another superb day for The European Tour. Argentina’s Angel Cabrera, winner of the BMW Championship at Wentworth in May, is among the players on five under par just two off the lead with Spain’s Sergio Garcia a further stroke adrift.
But Montgomerie is continuing to hold his own in his quest to win a strokeplay event on American soil for the first time in his illustrious career. Whilst he has won the individual title in the World Cup of Golf in 1997 and the Accenture Match Play Championship of Golf the same year, he has yet to taste victory in a true strokeplay event this side of the Atlantic.
During the first round the Scot, clearly brimming with confidence after his victory in the dunhill links championship at St Andrews last weekend, looked as if he had the ball on a string, finding the fairways and greens with unerring accuracy. Some of that accuracy deserted him during the second round in markedly cooler conditions but he holed a number of crucial par saving putts before edging ahead again with birdies on the 16th and 17th holes.
The signature 18th hole is comfortably the most difficult on the course and Montgomerie was one of many players to fall foul of this tricky dog-leg as he finished with a bogey but remained one ahead of the field.
“I was tired today, very tired,” admitted Montgomerie. “But overall that’s as good a round of golf as yesterday. It was more of a battle. I didn’t get off to the flying start so it was tougher. But I’m glad with that round today and I’m still in contention which is what I want to be.”
Also in contention is his Ryder Cup team-mate David Howell who also bogeyed the last for a second successive 67 to share second place. Howell has become a regular fixture on leaderboards this year, particularly since his return from injury. In his last five events he has won one – the BMW International Open - and enjoyed three top tens including a joint sixth in the WGC – NEC Invitational on his last visit to America.
Nevertheless the American public as still unsure as to who David Howell is, despite playing on the record-breaking European Ryder Cup Team last September and performing with distinction on the world stage. But asked if that worried him, Howell replied: “Not at all. It doesn’t worry me that I fly under the radar here. That’s fine. It’s my job to put myself on the TV more and make the American public know who I am.”
If he carries on over the weekend as he has done for the first two days everyone will sit up and take notice. “I’m delighted with my position on six under,” he said. “I didn’t swing the club particularly well the first couple of days so delighted to be six under. I’m pleased I’ve cut the gap from three shots to one.”
By contrast John Daly never slips under the radar and has a huge following wherever he travels around the world. The San Francisco public adore him and he has given them plenty to cheer about over the first two days.
A dropped shot on the 14th was the only blemish on his card as he moved within a stroke of the lead. “Yesterday I struggled with the putter a little bit, but today hit it a lot better. I love the way I am hitting the driver. It is keeping that in play that has allowed me to score.”
Cabrera is one of six players on five under par, a group that includes World Number One Tiger Woods who is aiming for his fourth victory in the WGC – American Express Championship in six attempts.
Sergio Garcia threatened the lead with three early birdies but bogeys at the eighth, tenth and 13th, with one more birdie on the 11th saw him slip back into the group on four under par 136 after a 69.
Ian Poulter, Henrik Stenson and Vijay Singh are also well in the hunt at three under par with 36 holes remaining.