Montgomerie must regain putting form against old rival Els

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VIRGINIA WATER, England, Oct 10 (Reuters) Poor putting has ruined Colin Montgomerie's season and the Briton knows he needs to display a sure stroke to have a chance of ousting long-time rival Ernie Els in the first round of the World Match Play.

''I've never really had a problem striking the ball but my putting this year has been very, very poor,'' Montgomerie told reporters at Wentworth today. ''I've been very negative, very tentative, with my putting.

''But in match play I can be more positive and I have to be to have a chance against Ernie (tomorrow). I know if I putt well I have a very good opportunity of winning.'' The 44-year-old Scot's rivalry with six-times Match Play champion Els goes back 13 years when the South African won the 1994 U.S. Open at Oakmont, defeating Montgomerie and American Loren Roberts in a three-way playoff.

Els, who is ranked fifth in the world, also beat Montgomerie in the 1994 Match Play final and again eclipsed the Scot in another US Open playoff at Congressional in 1997.

''It's a draw I don't think either of us wanted,'' said the eight-times European number one.

''I managed to win a playoff (against Els) in the 1996 Sun City Challenge,'' added Montgomerie. ''That, I am afraid, has been my only success against him so let's hope I can do something tomorrow.'' The 1999 Match Play champion needs to do something special to stop an alarming slide down the world rankings.

''I started this year 17th in the world and now I'm suddenly talking to you at 48th and that's no good,'' said Montgomerie.

''That's a big drop in the wrong direction and it has got to change.'' Reuters BJR DB2005

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