Allenby shades it

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Robert Allenby has a range of sunglasses for all climatic conditions, but the feeling that he had a pair powerful enough to block out the full horror of the patchwork greens here disappeared on the back nine of his final round in the One 2 One British Masters. But his late wobble when the Australian's third win of the year looked assured could not prevent him from ultimately defeating Spain's Miguel Martin in a sudden-death play-off in which it seemed no one would ever hole out.

Allenby, 25, who holed from 30 feet to beat Bernhard Langer in extra time at the French Open in June, and who had missed from eight feet to win in regulation, was relieved to be conceded the victory. Martin, who made up five shots during the final round with a 68, missed the green in three and then three-putted which left Allenby two feet away with two for it.

"It was a tough day," he said. "Anything can happen as we all saw. I hit some good shots that didn't come off but I was lucky in the end. I didn't really expect this it's been a funny, funny week I didn't even have jet lag after coming back from Australia. I want to dedicate this win to Matthew Fleming, a haemophiliac who has has died of Aids. He came to my golf day last year but collapsed into a coma and missed this year's event, but I was able to go to his funeral last week."

After going to the turn in 34, Allenby held a four-shot advantage, but then bogeyed three in a row from the 11th. A brave up and down from a bunker gave him a birdie four at the 14th, but as he dropped another shot the 16th, Martin birdied the 17th to draw level at four under.

Costantino Rocca three-putted the last to miss the play-off by one, while Ian Woosnam came to the 18th just two shots off the lead. But he charged his long approach putt off the green, chipped back to five feet and missed that. He extended his lead over Colin Montgomerie on the money list, but was not in a talkative mood afterwards. "I don't want to say anything," the Welshman said. "If I do say something, I might say something bad."

Allenby's victory earned him pounds 116,660, which puts him third on the rankings, but as an Australian, no Ryder Cup points. So Martin leads the initial rankings with 77,770 points. Had a European won the top prize, he would have been almost half way to the figure of pounds 252,000 with which the 10th man qualified for the team last year. The figure will doubtless be higher come this time next year, but Europe's new captain, Seve Ballesteros, is concerned with just what sort of team he will be lining up with at Valderrama.

"If we have conditions like this every week, then I don't think we will have the team we need," Ballesteros said. The Spaniard birdied the last to break 300 for his four rounds and then called for all the players to get together to discuss the situation, even appoint a new tournament committee, though it is the players themselves who voted them in in the first place. "It looks like we have lost our way," Ballesteros said.

"Something has to be done. It is not just this week, last week was embarrassing, too." Then, Woosnam won the German Open with a score of 20 under for three rounds on a defenceless course. "This is why we are losing players. They are going where they can find better facilities. If we lose the players then we will lose the sponsors. We will end up with 54 tournaments, but they will all be small ones."

Montgomerie, who has joined the tournament committee this year, said: "There are a lot of things to be dealt with, sure. I don't want to compare ourselves with the United States in terms of weather and finance. I just want to try to get courses in the best condition that we can find. It is my honest view that this week is a one-off, but we can't afford for this to happen again. It is a shame."

Montgomerie, the European No1 who finished at two over after a 69, made the unpreceden-ted move of going to apologise on behalf of the players to Paul Donovan, the sponsor's marketing manager. "As one of the top players, I think it is my duty to explain our position on behalf of the players and to let them know that without their sponsorship we wouldn't be here in the first place," Montgomerie said. "They are a new sponsor, in the first year of a three-year contract, and they have got off to a very poor start. Let's hope that in the next two years we can work this out."

In fact, the sponsors seem to have a pragmatic view and have been delighted with the column inches the tournament has generated. "People have been telling me for years: 'Don't worry, Colin, all press is good press', so maybe they feel the same way," Montgomerie said, before heading north to visit his father who is recovering well after a triple-bypass operation in Glasgow.

It will probably take longer for Collingtree Park to recover its reputation than its greens.