Montgomerie's 67 one back of lead in Spain

Montgomerie’s 67 one back of lead in Spain

SEVILLE, Spain(AP) Colin Montgomerie celebrated his 500th European Tour event with a 5-under 67 on Thursday, leaving the Scottish star a stroke behind countryman Chris Doak after the first round of the Andalucia Open.

Doak had a bogey-free day to lead at 6 under at the Real Club de Golf de Sevilla.

Montgomerie was tied with fellow Scot Steven O’Hara, Jean-Francois Lucquin of France and Juan Parron of Spain, with six others another shot back.

“That’s three tournaments in a row with a 67. Things are looking up,” said Montgomerie, who is looking for his 32nd tour victory. “It was a very nostalgic round. I was thinking about all sorts of things – my three PGA wins, eight Order of Merits … and being Ryder Cup captain.

“I’ve thought about that every minute of every day since I was appointed.”

Montgomerie, Europe’s 2010 Ryder Cup captain, had four birdies over his first six holes after starting on the back side.

The 45-year-old Scot then bogeyed the 16th after landing in the water, but recovered by sinking back-to-back birdie putts on the 18th and first to get to 5 under. Montgomerie, who credited a switch to a belly putter for his improved putting, holed from nearly 20 feet for another birdie at the fifth after a bogey at the previous hole.

“People say that being Ryder Cup captain will hurt my game, but I think exactly the opposite. I’ve been looking for ways to relax on the course and I think I’ve found it,” said Montgomerie, who has 182 top-10 finishes but none since last the French Open last June. He has slipped to 137th in the world rankings, which will keep him from qualifying for next month’s Masters.

“I have to try and get back in the top 50, that’s the goal for the season. If I can do that, gain 80 spots in a year, that will be a very good effort,” Montgomerie said.

Five shots separated the first 51 players in the 156-strong field, with two local favorites in danger of missing the cut at the $1.35 million event. Course designer Jose Maria Olazabal and host Miguel Angel Jimenez were both tied for 88th at 74.

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