SOTOGRANDE, Spain (AP) – Colin Montgomerie moved closer to winning the European Tour money title, shooting a 4-under-par 67 Thursday for a share of the first-round lead in the Volvo Masters.

The Scot was tied with defending tournament champion Ian Poulter.

Montgomerie holed a 111-yard wedge for an eagle on the par-5 eighth and birdied the last hole on the 6,952-yard Valderrama course.

“It’s always lucky,” Montgomerie said. “It was a wedge of 111 yards. I hit it 112 and it backed into the hole. You intend to hole it but it’s always lucky when it comes off.”

U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell had a 72 was 23rd in the 55-man field. Montgomerie, trying for his eighth career Order of Merit title and his first since 1999, leads Campbell by $182,000.

The New Zealander is the only player who can catch Montgomerie, but must finish ahead of him here to do so.

Luke Donald, Jose Maria Olazabal and Sergio Garcia shared third place after 68s.

English Ryder Cup player Poulter is trying to extend his streak of winning one title every year since 2000.

Montgomerie, second in the British Open and winner of the Dunhill Links Championship at St. Andrews last month, made a superb start to his round.

He struck his approach to 8 feet at the first hole and made a birdie. He gained another shot at the second hole when Campbell bogeyed from a bunker, and birdied the third from 18 feet.

“The first hole was crucial,” Montgomerie said. “I was anxious, obviously. I felt anxiety which was understandable. But I got rid of that in the first three holes.”

He dropped two shots when Campbell birdied the long fourth hole and Montgomerie bogeyed the sixth after driving into the rough and hitting into a greenside bunker.

“That was a good bogey,” Montgomerie said. “When I saw the lie in the bunker with a big tree in the way, I was looking at a double. I was lucky.”

He immediately birdied the short sixth hole from 30 feet, and the eagle at the eighth gave him a four-shot edge on Campbell.

“It wasn’t great, it wasn’t brilliant,” Campbell said of his round. “All credit to Monty. He played great today.

“It’s a very fickle golf course. I’ve just got to be patient the next three days and pick up some ground.”

Montgomerie said Bernhard Langer’s decision to pick him as a wild card for last year’s Ryder Cup was responsible for his current form.

“Bernhard gave me an opportunity,” said Montgomerie, who sank the winning putt in Europe’s 18-1/2 to 9-1/2 victory at Oakland Hills. “That was a crucial move on his part for my career, because it was going in one direction – the wrong direction.”

AP-ES-10-27-05 1538EDT


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