Golf: Montgomerie feels the force

Countdown to the Open: Europe's No 1 finds key to Loch and home comfort
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The Independent Online
WAS IT a coincidence, Lee Westwood was asked on Friday evening, that his good form has come along just as a new superstar - Sergio Garcia - was emerging on the European Tour? "Yes, it is a coincidence," came the reply from the Englishman. Colin Montgomerie's mood, as well as his form, at the Standard Life International Tournament indicated he might not give the same answer. A day after Garcia's first-round 62, Montgomerie birdied five of the first six holes in a 65. Was he, perhaps, irked by the morning papers suggesting the youngster could have broken 60? His comments after the round appeared to confirm as much.

Something certainly fired the Scot during yesterday's stunning final round of 64. It was only after Garcia birdied the first and third holes that Montgomerie moved into G-force but then there was no stopping him.

After more than a decade of trying, and needing a spectacular run of nine birdies in 12 holes to do so, Monty finally won on home soil for the first time. The presentation was accompanied by the inevitable lone piper. At 16 under par, he took the title by three strokes from Mats Lanner, Michael Jonzon and Garcia. This time, the 19-year-old Spaniard was cast in the Peter O'Malley role. Seven years ago, at Gleneagles, Montgomerie reported for action on the final day of the Scottish Open wearing a blue sweater with the cross of St Andrews on his chest. The script was being observed until the Australian O'Malley played the last five holes in seven under.

Three birdies in a row from the 12th by Garcia, still playing with the exuberance of youth after his victory in the Irish Open last Sunday, made him the main challenger to the six-time European No 1. But just as Montgomerie dropped a shot at the last to see the gap cut to one, Garcia three-putted the 16th and then bogeyed the last. "I've waited a long time since 1992 for this," Montgomerie said.

Despite winning the Alfred Dunhill Cup at St Andrews with Sam Torrance and Andrew Coltart in 1995, Montgomerie coveted a victory in Scotland as much as he does in America. Ken Brown was the last of Scottish allegiance to win in Scotland - the Glasgow Open at Haggs Castle in 1984 - but Brown hailed from Hertfordshire.

Although Montgomerie grew up in Yorkshire, he was born 36 years ago in Glasgow and stayed with his father in Troon for the week. The locals scurried to the record books and came up with the fact that Eric Brown won the PGA Matchplay at Turnberry in 1960, while the last Scottish-born winner of a 72-hole event of notable stature on home soil was a naturalised American, Tommy Armour, in 1931 - in the first Open held at Carnoustie. "I suppose I have as good a chance as anyone," Montgomerie said of this week's Open. "But right now I want to savour this victory. I'm from the west side of Scotland and to win here on a quality course against a quality field makes me very proud. This is my 20th win but it's the most special."

Montgomerie now goes to a championship in which his best result is eighth (at Turnberry five years ago), hoping to win in successive weeks. In May he won two in three weeks. "It was like the B & H and the PGA again in that I had a job to do and did it. I won by three after starting three behind. That sounds easy but it wasn't. It was annoying to drop a shot at the first but I had a reasonable run in the middle to post a score."

Replace "reasonable" with "brilliant". Some of Montgomerie's golf matched his closing 64 at Wentworth to win the Volvo PGA. He did not start promisingly, bunkering his approach to the first to drop a shot, but holed an eight- footer for par at the fourth, a key hole. A five-iron to three feet at the short fifth got the ball rolling and his longest birdie putt was a 25-footer at the seventh. Otherwise the distance control with his irons was perfect and the run concluded with another five-iron to three feet at the 16th. "I had 203 yards and it went 203 yards," Monty said. "I could stand there a long time before hitting as good a shot as that again."

Garcia, with a 68, took his earnings from five European tour events to pounds 275,770 and entered the automatic Ryder Cup spots in seventh place. He is one place ahead of the captain Mark James and one behind Westwood, whose defence of his Loch Lomond title stumbled when he drove into a bush at the tenth and had to take an unplayable. He dropped three shots in three holes to finish with a 71 and share fifth place with Jesper Parnevik.

Lanner had a seven-foot birdie putt at the last to claim second place on his own. Had the Swede done so, he would have earned an exemption from final qualifying for the Open. While Lanner will be teeing up this morning at Panmure in the first of two rounds of qualifying, Paul Eales can have the day off.

Eales was practising yesterday at Panmure and phoning in from the course to his occasional colleagues at Radio Five Live to find out whether he would be overtaken on a mini-order of merit covering the last few weeks. Eales was ordered to miss the Loch Lomond event after suffering in Ireland from a virus which caused double vision. As well as Eales and Garcia, David Park, who closed with a 73 yesterday, Angel Cabrera and Miguel Angel Martin also earned exemptions from qualifying.

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