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Golf: May makes it 23rd time lucky

NICK FALDO may think Colin Montgomerie exists in a "comfort zone" on the European tour, but it was one that caused considerable discomfort yesterday as America's Bob May defeated the European No 1 to win the Victor Chandler British Masters.

May, a 30-year-old who lives in Las Vegas, had recorded 22 runner-up finishes in his professional career since the 1991 British Amateur Championship where, inevitably, he had lost in the final to Gary Wolstenholme. However, he finally became a winner with a closing 67 as he came from three behind to win by one.

What was expected to be a weekend showdown between Britain's top two players went awry on Saturday when Lee Westwood dropped out of contention with a 72. Montgomerie, the defending champion and overnight leader, had a 71 yesterday, but the damage was done on the front nine, where there was a six-shot swing in the first seven holes.

Montgomerie, denied his third win in a row and sixth of the season in Europe, explained his putting had not been up to scratch all week. But perhaps he had been made aware of Faldo's comments from the Canadian Open that implied the Scot, who has now had nine top-10s in 12 appearances in Europe, was running scared of the greater competition on the US tour.

"It's a bit like a Jumbo Ozaki scenario," Faldo said. "He's great in his own back yard, he's comfortable, happy. He knows he's only got to play half-decent and he's going to be there. Even if he plays badly, he's the sort of guy who turns around a good score the next day and gets himself into contention.

"He's in a comfort zone, and I think he just enjoys it," added Faldo. "He goes out and wins a couple of hundred thousand each week and goes home. I'd be comfortable if I did that every week. He likes to earn his fat cheques and there is no harm in that, if you're motivated by that. A few are. Most of us go for 10 claret jugs."

However May, who is now exempted into the finals of the US Qualifying School, disagreed. "I have backed Monty for every major in the last three years and soon it is going to pay off," he said. "It is incredible that when I finally get my first win it is over one of the best players in the world, if not the best. If he played more in the States he would get more points and could be the world No 1."

Montgomerie's demise began when he missed the green at the second on the right, the same side as the pin, and saw his chip fall to the far side of the putting surface. He did well to two-putt for a bogey but May holed for a birdie to close within one. The Scot, who had only dropped one shot in the first 54 holes, then uncharacteristically bogeyed three holes in a row from the fifth, while May birdied the sixth to move three in front.

Though the American missed the green at the short 11th to bogey the hole, it was his only dropped shot of the day. Monty's third three-putt of the round, a "criminal error", he said, meant he did not birdie the par-five 13th and May went back three ahead at the 14th.

There might have been a two-shot swing at the 16th after the Scot birdied but May, who had been in the trees off the tee, holed from 10 feet for his par. Both found the greenside bunker at the last and, though Monty safely got up and down for a birdie, May pushed his six-footer for a birdie two feet past but safely holed back.

VICTOR CHANDLER BRITISH MASTERS (Duke's Course, Woburn) Leading final scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 269 B May (US) 69 67 66 67. 270 C Montgomerie 67 64 68 71. 272 C Hanell (Swe) 70 69 66 67. 274 G Owen 68 70 70 66, L Westwood 68 66 72 68. 275 S Webster 67 70 70 68. 276 P Broadhurst 68 71 72 65, S Torrance 72 67 69 68. 277 S Leaney (Aus) 67 70 70 70. 278 P McGinley 71 71 70 66, D Clarke 71 66 74 67, S Tinning (Den) 69 72 70 67, R Goosen (SA) 69 71 68 70, T Johnstone (Zim) 71 69 68 70, M Campbell (NZ) 70 71 67 70, J Bickerton 68 68 71 71, R Russell 71 65 70 72. Selected: 279 I Woosnam 68 69 69 73. 284 D Gilford 71 70 72 71. 291 B Langer (Ger) 68 75 74 74.