Colin Montgomerie remains in contention for his first Major Championship title as he goes into the weekend at the 106th US Open at Winged Foot one behind leader Steve Stricker of America. The Scot leads a strong European Tour challenge which includes ten Members in the top 20 within six shots of the lead.
Montgomerie, runner-up in 1994 and 1997, posted a one over par 71 to lie on level par at the halfway stage, while Stricker is the only player in the 156-strong field under par following his 69.
Montgomerie was a model of consistency in terms of scoring as he dropped only one shot, at the 14th, his fifth, and 17 pars thanks to some impressive scrambling particularly on his back nine.
“You don’t compete here since 1997 and that is nine years ago, a long time,” said last year’s European Number One. “It is nice to get back in the frame nine years later. That is the beauty of golf. You are never quite sure. That was a grinding round today and I was glad to hold on. Yes, it could have been three shots better but it could also be three worse. You take it and run to the bank. 71 is not a bad score and a couple more 70s and you never know what might happen.”
It was another brutal day at Winged Foot with only five players breaking par. Among them was Padraig Harrington, who holed a 45 footer across the final green for a 69 to move to two over par and only three strokes back. Luke Donald also returned a score in the 60s with a 69 following his opening 78.
Harrington was quick to point out it was no surprise to see so many Europeans contending in the second Major Championship of the season. “Besides Colin, in European golf there are a lot of young guys coming up and it is only a matter of time before a lot of them compete in Majors and win Majors. European golf is very strong and I think we will see more names on the leaderboard in future. I think once one wins we might get a situation like we had in the 80s where we might get a number of winners.”
One of those young contenders is England’s Kenneth Ferrie, who led the field for much of the day, moving to four under par through 13 holes before back-to-back double bogeys on the 14th and 15th dropped him back into the pack. His level par 70 was nevertheless still an impressive round and left him tied for third with Australian Geoff Ogilvy at one over par.
“I guess it will be known as the ‘Curse of Winged Foot’, when you get to four under and you have a mare,” said Ferrie in reference to the fact that David Howell also got to four under before dropping back in the first round. “You just lose concentration for one shot and you get punished so badly. But at the end of the day you can’t win it on the second day but you can lose it. I am there or thereabouts and who knows if I can win but I feel I am playing well enough to still be hanging around on Sunday.
Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell saved a bogey on the ninth, his 18th, when he holed from 15 feet for a 72 to lie just three over par, one ahead of England’s Phillip Archer, who continues to impress in his Major Championship debut with a second successive 72.
And with Darren Clarke, Miguel Angel Jiménez, Ian Poulter, Vijay Singh and Nick O’Hern all in the group at five over par, it promises to be an enthralling weekend for European Tour Members in the chase to catch Stricker.
The 39 year old, who has finished outside the top 150 money winners on the US PGA Tour the last three years, holed out from the bunker on his last hole to complete a one under par 69 for a one under 139 total at the demanding West Course.
One player who will not be there though is the World Number One Tiger Woods, whose record streak of 39 consecutive cuts made in Major Championships – a record he shared with Jack Nicklaus - came to an end. It was his first missed cut in the four Majors as a professional with the run going back to the 1996 Masters Tournament in his amateur days.
"When you don't execute you're not going to feel happy," Woods said after a round spent punching out through trees and trying to reach greens from heavy rough. "And I did not execute this week."