Golf: Els holds off Monty to become $1m man at last

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ERNIE ELS strolled to a five-shot victory over Scotland's Colin Montgomerie in the Million Dollar challenge here in South Africa to earn the biggest pay cheque of his career.

The South African fired a faultless 66 to card a tournament record 25- under par, holding off the spirited challenge of Montgomerie, who trailed Els by six shots overnight. It was Els' first Million Dollar tournament win, at his eighth attempt, while Montgomerie had the consolation of a pounds 160,000 prize for finishing second in the 12-man invitational field.

Montgomerie, marking what he said was his last round of golf of the millennium, carded a 65 to finish 20-under for the tournament. The European Order of Merit winner takes a break until next February. Darren Clarke, finished third on 18-under par after a round of 65 to follow Saturday's course- record equalling 64. Lee Westwood shot six birdies for a 66 and finished fourth on 11-under.

The organisers of the Million Dollar Challenge will be seeking to have the event's world rankings status reinstated in February, thereby ensuring the tournament's survival.

The International Federation of PGA Tours has decreed that next year's Million Dollar Challenge will be classified as a "special event". Under that banner the tournament would no longer count towards the world rankings.

That would almost certainly threaten its survival when other tournaments, such as the World Golf Championship, would have a stronger hand to lure the world's best players away from Sun City.

Representatives from Sun International, the owners of the Million Dollar Challenge, will meet the International Federation of PGA Tours in February to argue their case.

Brett Rumford became the second amateur to beat the professionals in a week when he saw off Craig Spence in a play-off for the Australian Players Championship title in Brisbane. Rumford, 22, holed a 25-foot birdie putt at the fourth sudden-death extra hole at the Royal Queensland course to account for his fellow Australian. His victory follows 18-year-old amateur Aaron Baddeley's win in the Australian Open at Royal Sydney last weekend.

Both Rumford, the 1998 Australian amateur champion, and Spence had parred the play-off hole - the par-four 18th - the first three times around in the play-off. Rumford had earlier fired a closing five-under-par 68 to tie with Spence, who shot 67, on the 12-under total of 280.

The pair finished one shot clear of a group of players which included the Scot Raymond Russell, who closed with a round of 69. As Rumford kept his amateur status and forfeited the prize money, Spence picked up the pounds 60,000 first prize.

Scores, Digest, page 11