Twelve months ago Montgomerie was undone by Philip Walton in a sudden death play-off and this time, despite hitting the front with what seemed like perfect timing, he came up short on the last two holes and was overtaken by the Australian Robert Allenby. "I had two bad lies at inopportune moments," Monty said. He duffed chip shots at the 17th and 18th.
Montgomerie, who won this championship two years ago, had been employed to oversee changes to the course with the intention of setting it up so it would resemble, to a certain degree, conditions at the US Open which is being held in Detroit this week. Thus the rough was allowed to develop and in the end it choked Montgomerie. Although he put a brave face on it, there have been more comfortable journeys than partnering Monty on the drive back to Surrey last night.
He began the tournament with a 75 and said that he could win it with three rounds of 68. That is exactly what he produced and he was beaten by a stroke, finishing joint second with Ross McFarlane. Montgomerie began the day two strokes behind Allenby but by the turn the Scotsman led the Australian by three.
Allenby and McFarlane, the last pair out, were able to monitor Monty's progress. "He was playing awesomely," Allenby said, "but I never felt that I couldn't win. With nine holes to go I was patient, I didn't force anything. When you're in a tournament with Monty and you beat him you know you've done very well."
Montgomerie went out in 32 to Allenby's 37 but the back nine was a different story: 36 to 32. Monty three-putted the 11th but two more birdies put him in the driving seat at 10 under when he approached the 17th, a par five. Montgomerie hit a five-iron approach through the green and left his chip about 20 feet short. Two putts gave him his par but that was akin to dropping a stroke. At the 18th, a par three of 210 yards, Monty hit a four-iron to the fringe on the right and only managed to move the ball four feet. He took a bogey four and opened the door for either Allenby or McFarlane, both of whom birdied the penultimate hole to get to 10 under. However, McFarlane dropped a shot at the last while the 24-year-old Allenby, putting from the length of a cricket pitch, rolled it up to within six inches to secure his par. Both he and McFarlane scored 69. Bad lies or not, Montgomerie might reflect that a five-iron at the last might have been the more appropriate club.
Montgomerie, who was second in Hamburg the week before, said: "I didn't lose the tournament at the 17th or 18th, I lost it on Thursday. It's hard work playing catch up. To go from 91st to second was a good effort and I'm still full of confidence. I've had a number of bad lies and I'm sure a lot of other people have too." Montgomerie and McFarlane won pounds 56,450 each to Allenby's pounds 108,330 and it was enough to promote Monty to the top of the Volvo Ranking. "It is no consolation," he said.
Walton, who had a 70 to finish at one under, went out on a high note with a hole in one at the 15th. The seven-iron from 187 yards earned pounds 10,000 for the Dunblane Appeal from the Whitbread Hotel Company and a jeroboam of Moet for the Irishman. It was also a red letter day for Robert Coles, a little East Ender who went through the Qualifying School. Coles decided that professional golf was preferable to getting up with the sparrows to man a stall in Petticoat Lane. Yesterday he shot 68 and, at two under for the tournament, finished equal 12th and won pounds 9,635.
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