On the march to the Open with Colin Montgomerie

Colin Montgomerie tees off at Open qualifying
Colin Montgomerie was one of 27 Scots in the field at Gailes

My day with Monty - and 200 other people - began with the words: "Game number 10, on the tee from Royal Troon, Colin Montgomerie."

The starter at the Gailes course was calling Monty to arms for his second round of the day.

His first went well, exceptionally well. The eight-time European number one rolling back the years to card a five-under-par 66.

As the Scot limbered, former BBC commentator David Begg, who was on marshalling duty, informed me that: "Monty is putting beautifully." He added: "Ten putts on the back nine."

More of the same and Monty would be a shoe-in for one last Open hurrah on his home course of Royal Troon, surely. After all, he ended his first round a shot off the lead and there are three qualifying places up for grabs.

No wonder Monty is, as one mature observer informs me, "all sweetness and light".

Caddy Alastair McLean passes instructions to Colin Mongomerie
Golf fans were able to get up close - but not too personal - with Montgomerie and caddy Alastair McLean

Will it last?

Only one way to find out. To set out in the footsteps of Monty, or at least follow him round the course.

The former Ryder Cup captain is joined in game 10 by Sam Robinson, from Market Raisen, and John Henry, from Clydebank. But, apart from a coterie of family and friends of the two younger men, the punters are here to see if Monty can do it.

There must be at least 150 ready to follow the big man round.

"It doesn't get much better than this," a young golf enthusiast tells me. "You can walk right behind him on the fairways, no ropes or anything like that, and the players even talk to you."

That said, there's a sort of 10-yard de facto exclusion zone around Monty as he stalks the fairways with loping strides. After all, you don't want to get too close, just in case.

Monty starts well, finding the green with his second shot and leaving him a 12-foot putt for birdie. It's in! Today, it seems, he has the magic touch.

"He's in great form, chatting away," an elderly gent informs me before another observer, also of mature years, chips in: "No he's not."

Sam Robinson chats with Colin Montgomerie
Sam Robinson was one of Colin Montgomerie's playing partners

You couldn't say there's a lot of love in the air for Monty. More like deep admiration and respect for one of our greatest-ever golfers and, yes, a little fear.

"Stand still please," he rebukes a couple of golf fans who stray into his eyeline as he prepares to tee off. They freeze, mildly embarrassed, until the moment passes.

Alas, Monty's second round is not the same sort of birdie fest as his morning session.

The putts just aren't dropping like they did before lunch, but he's fighting for every stroke. This means more to him he says than anyone else in the field - one last chance to qualify for an Open on his home course.

Mind you, if he misses out here, he will still get in with a top-four finish at the Scottish Open!

Monty only manages one more birdie in his second round and a couple of bogeys, both at par threes, mean he finishes on level par.

However, there are flashes of brilliance, particularly at the 15th, where he overcomes a horrible lie to save par. And there is none of the "unravelling" predicted by one doom monger.

Colin Montgomerie putts at Gailes
Montgomerie finished third at Gailes to qualify for the Open

By the time Monty gets to the 18th green, there are a couple of hundred spectators looking on. When he taps out for par, there is no ovation. His followers are too anxious for that.

"Will five under be enough? Is the young Swede still 10 under? What about the closing pack."

You see, judging by the demographic of my fellow travellers round 18 holes at Gailes, they don't want this journey to end.

They've been following Monty's triumphs and travails for years and, to a degree, shared in them - haven't we all.

As Monty lopes into the recorder's office, a small crowd gathers outside. Media men and onlookers.

When he emerges, he signs autographs for a couple of young fans and speaks to reporters, telling them: "I hope and pray I've done enough. We'll just have to wait and see."

Ending with this promise: "If I make it, I'll come back and talk to you."

Indeed, he did make it, just, edging out compatriot Jack Doherty (not the television comic) by a stroke to finish third behind Oskar Arvidsson of Sweden and Scott Fernandez of Spain.

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