Golf: Desire to win still rages in Montgomerie

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The Independent Online
A celebrity pro-am is a useful occasion for the professional to chew the fat with stars of stage, screen and the playing field. In the curtain- raiser to the Benson and Hedges International, which starts at The Oxfordshire today, Colin Montgomerie played a round with Stephen Hendry (handicap 11) and it would be fair to say that the world snooker champion is better on the greens than Monty is on the green baize.

For some reason Monty, who in fact has eschewed the fat on his crash diet and is heading towards a profile more akin to a snooker cue than Alfred Hitchcock, asked Hendry about the loss of form of the Thai player James Wattana. "Stephen said that Wattana has lost the desire," Monty reported. "Snooker is very big in Bangkok and he became a very wealthy young man very quickly and the desire went."

The fortunes of Wattana gave Monty the chance to wax lyrical on his role model, Nick Faldo. "That the desire is as intense as it ever was has to be admired in Nick," Monty said. "That's something we should be very proud of in Britain, to have someone of that quality to keep going at it like that. It would be very easy for him to say 'thank you very much, I'm retiring'."

Faldo, whose victory in the Masters gave him his sixth major title, is No 7 in the world; Monty, who has yet to win a major, is No 3. "I'm not at his level," Monty said, "but I have a great desire to win one.

"Money is not the be all and end all now. I turned pro owing money. You try not to think about it when you start off and hopefully the quality of your game takes care of that. It happened with me pretty quickly."

He admitted, however, that if he no longer dreams about cream buns, he occasionally has a sneaky glance at his bank balance. "I smile mostly when I do. I'm very very fortunate, I suppose."

Montgomerie made a flying start to the season with victory in the Dubai Desert Classic but flopped in the Masters where he referred to Augusta National as that "bloody place" and lamented the number of putts that got away. In a comment that is unlikely to endear him to Sam Torrance, a successful practitioner of the broomhandle putter, Monty said: "I'm not saying I would never use a broomhandle putter but when you get to that stage, there's nowhere to go. If that doesn't work you may as well start playing tennis." The prospect of even a slimmed-down Monty appearing in shorts is too much to contemplate.

The Benson and Hedges, which has a first prize of pounds 117,000, not only boasts all 12 members of Europe's victorious Ryder Cup team but also marks the professional debut on the Tour of Gordon Sherry. The amateur champion turned pro after missing the cut in the Masters and last week he won pounds 963 in the Scottish PGA Championship. He is not yet tempted to glance at his bank balance although it is easy to recognise that he is now a professional.

During the Masters he wore a cap with the initials of Kilmarnock Football Club. Now it is replaced by Titleist. "When I go back to Augusta I'll know what to expect," Sherry said. Not if but when. "The level of my ambition," the 6ft 7in Sherry said, "is to become the No 1 golfer in the world. It always has been but it can't happen overnight."

Sherry has caused resentment among some players for receiving an invitation to the Volvo PGA Championship at Wentworth next week. When the disgruntled asked the Tour why the disenfranchised Sherry should receive an invitation ahead of PGA members they were told: "market forces". "It is not for me to worry about," Sherry said. "If I was in their position I wouldn't be happy either but I have to look after number one."