Golf: Montgomerie finds Faxon a game too far

World Match Play
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The Independent Online
Colin Montgomerie has a record on his mind but, as Andy Farrell explains, the long season proved too much for him at Wentworth yesterday

A flu-ridden Colin Montgomerie will have his first unplanned weekend off for exactly a year. The Scot has not missed a cut this season, but playing his ninth tournament in a row caught up with him yesterday as he lost 2 and 1 to Brad Faxon.

In the last three weeks, Montgomerie has finished second twice and played a not inconsiderable role in the winning of the Ryder Cup. "I am run into the ground," he said. "I'm going home for a well earned rest.

"I've had a job to do. I'm going for a record and it is causing me health problems."

The record he is attempting is an unprecedented fifth consecutive Order of Merit victory. Montgomerie is pounds 45,000 ahead of Bernhard Langer on the money list going into the Volvo Masters at the end of the month. Before that he will lead Scotland in next week's Alfred Dunhill Cup at St Andrews. "I'm not going to say it is this is a blessing in disguise," he said of his defeat. "The mind was keen but my body said 'no' today."

Montgomerie was two up after six holes in the afternoon when Faxon lived up to his reputation as a fine putter. The American had just lost three holes in a row when he holed from 25 feet for a half at the seventh. Two holes later, he holed from 30 feet again for the half. Faxon won the next four holes as Montgomerie ran out of steam.

"It is satisfying to beat Colin," said Faxon, who had beaten another of his European Ryder Cup counterparts in Darren Clarke the day before.

"He was a little sick today, but he is one of the best players in the world and you know pars are not going to be enough to beat someone like that." He plays Vijay Singh in the semi-final after the Fijian beat Steve Elkington 5 and 4.

Montgomerie did have some good news in that his wife Eimear is expecting their third child next May. But he added: "This was planned and it will not affect my decision whether to go to America or not."

The other semi-final will be a battle of the southern Africans, Ernie Els and Nick Price. Both had convincing victories, Els by 7 and 6 over Ian Woosnam, while Price had to go a hole further, to the 31st, in beating Frank Nobilo.

Golf may not be brain surgery, but it is clearly not rocket science, either. Woosnam's utilisation of his NASA-designed driver was far less effective than Thursday, but the bad golfer was not blaming his tools. "It is not the driver, is it," Woosnam said. "It is obviously me."

There is no such thing as an evenly tempered Woosnam. Since he won the Volvo PGA here in May, the Welshman has finished in the top 10 at a tournament only once and it is getting him down. "One day is good, one day is bad. You can't play like that. You have to be more consistent in this game.

"When I am swinging the club, it is like... desperate," added one of the sweetest swingers of a golf club in his prime. "There doesn't seem to be any groove to it. I don't physically know how to draw the ball properly and that is my problem. It has been like this for a number of years. I carry on bashing my head against the wall."

Els, who was made an honorary member of the Wentworth Club on Wednesday night, scored a morning round of 67 to take a four hole lead into lunch.

A defeat for Els would have meant Sporting Index giving up a large amount of largesse after they offered golf writers, not known for being au fait with spread betting, a free wager. The few who bought Els, however, are feeling confident.

Today's semi-final tee-off times: 8.30 and 12.45: Els v Price; 8.45 and 1.0: Faxon v Singh.

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