LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England — Colin Montgomerie heard the roars on every side of him. The difficult part now is not looking back.
"Having to always look over one's shoulder is never an easy task," Montgomerie said.
Especially in a British Open.
With Tiger Woods lurking just four strokes back.
Riding an emotional groundswell he has never felt, Montgomerie delivered a 1-under 70 at Royal Lytham & St. Annes on Friday, giving him a one-stroke lead over Pierre Fulke of Sweden going into the weekend.
At every turn, the enormous gallery cheered on Montgomerie as if that support alone could carry him to his first major championship.
If only it were that easy.
Still ahead of him are 36 holes. Not too far behind is Woods, whose six major championships are six more than Montgomerie can claim.
"I've won major championships and I've won the Open. That in itself relieves a lot of tension, a lot of pressure, because you know what it takes," Woods said. "If you haven't won one, it becomes a little more difficult."
That's what awaits Montgomerie this weekend.
He has won an Open from start-to-finish as recently as three weeks ago, only it was the Irish Open. He says he is playing as well now as he has in some of the 30 tournaments he has won around the world.
"In fact, I've played an awful lot worse than this and won tournaments," he said. "I feel quite comfortable at this stage."
But this is a major championship, and Montgomerie conceded it's new territory for him.
It isn't for Woods.
Trying to become the first player in 18 years to successfully defend the claret jug, Woods birdied all the par 5s and escaped with only a bogey on a potentially disastrous 15th hole for a 3-under 68 and at 3-under 139 for the tournament.
Montgomerie, who was at 7-under 135, didn't know Woods' score until later. He never heard any cheers for Woods because his own gallery never stopped roaring. He studied every scoreboard and never saw Woods' name, only because there wasn't room with six players in front of him.
"What is he, 3 under, 4 under?" Montgomerie asked.
Told that Woods was at 3-under 139, he nodded.
"Well, that's great. Thank goodness he's not 4."
This is the first time Montgomerie has led a major after 36 holes since the 1994 U.S. Open at Oakmont, where he got into a playoff that was won by Ernie Els.
"It is tiring," Montgomerie said of the prospect of going wire-to-wire.
Carrying him along was a British gallery that offered thunderous ovations at the mere sight of the 38-year-old Scot lumbering toward the green.