'We shouldn't have too many problems against Paraguay,' Montgomerie, the Scotland captain, said on Wednesday. 'If we lose to them we should really go home.' Scotland duly lost to Paraguay and, under the old system, they would indeed have been packing their bags. As it is, under the round- robin format they have two more matches but will have to beat Wales and the United States, both by 3-0, to qualify for the semi-finals.
Paraguay beat Scotland 2-1 at the headquarters of the Royal and Ancient, a giant-killing which dwarfs the David and Goliath affair. Paraguay - bless their woollen bobble hats - has fewer golf courses in the entire country than the town of St Andrews. Paraguay has three, St Andrews five. Only 100 players in Paraguay have handicaps of 18 or better.
Carlos Franco defeated Sam Torrance 70 to 74 in the first encounter and then Carlos's brother, Angel, was beaten by Gordon Brand Jnr. It came down to Big Monty and little Raul Fretes. Montgomerie, two strokes ahead with three holes to play, finished 5-5-4 to Fretes's 4-4-3. Fretes scored 74 to Montgomerie's 75 and all of a sudden they were dancing in the streets of Asuncion.
Fretes, who has only been a professional since 1991, sank a putt from around 25 feet at the 18th for a birdie three and Montgomerie missed from about 12 feet. Fretes, whose team-mates were praying by the 18th green, said: 'It is a feeling I will remember all my life.'
Asked for his reaction, Montgomerie replied: 'Great.' After a delay of 10 seconds, he added: 'I don't think we expected this to say the least. If you score 75 round here you don't deserve to win.' Scotland are seeded three on the basis of the world rankings. The Paraguayans, 500-1 with the bookmakers, do not rate a mention in the rankings.
Today, Paraguay take on the United States, who beat Wales 3-0 after Payne Stewart, runner-up here to Nick Faldo in the Open in 1990, shot 78 and still managed to beat Paul Mayo by two strokes.
Ireland defeated Zimbabwe, the top seeds, 3-0 and this was another bizarre state of affairs. David Feherty and Nick Price were level going to the 18th. Feherty hit a one- iron off the tee which, he said, was the wrong club. 'It went too far.' He was left with an awkward bump- and-run shot through the Valley of Sin, which he played almost to perfection, putting the ball within six feet of the flag. Price, who had driven to the front edge of the green, putted up to two feet. Feherty holed, Price missed. 'I was stunned,' Feherty said. After Paul McGinley had matched Mark McNulty's 74, Feherty was under the impression that that was a half. There are no halves and McGinley went on to defeat McNulty at the fourth extra hole.
Faldo, the England captain, knows the score. Each team receive a point for victory but at the conclusion of the round-robin series tomorrow, joint leaders will be seperated on a countback. Thus 3-0 is better than 2-1. 'Plan A,' Faldo said, 'is a whitewash.' They whitewashed Mexico and plan to do the same today to Taiwan.
SCORES FROM ST ANDREWS
(Old Course, St Andrews)
GROUP 4: Australia 1 Canada 2: P Senior 77 lost to R Zokol 70, R Davis 71 lost to J Rutledge 71 at 19th, C Parry 73 bt D Barr 73 at 20th. Sweden 3 Japan 0: J Parnevik 68 bt T Nishikawa 80, J Haeggman 71 bt Y Mizumaki 73, A Forsbrand 73 bt T Yoneyama 74. GROUP 2: South Africa 2 Taiwan 1: F Allem 71 bt Chung Chun-hsing 80, E Els 71 bt Chen Liang-hsi 77, D Frost 77 lost to Yuan Ching-chi 73. England 3 Mexico 0: P Baker 73 bt C Espinoza 75, N Faldo 72 bt R Alarcon 75, M James 75 bt J Brito 80. GROUP 1: Spain 2 Argentina 1:
J-M Olazabal 69 bt J Coceres 72, M A Jimenez 78 lost to V Fernandez 74, J Rivero 73 bt E Romero 76. Zimbabwe 0 Ireland 3: T Johnstone 75 lost to R Rafferty 74, M McNulty 74 lost to P McGinley 74 at 22nd, N Price 72 lost to D Feherty 71. GROUP 3: Scotland 1 Paraguay 2: S Torrance 74 lost to C Franco 70, G Brand Jnr 71 bt A Franco 77, C Montgomerie 75 lost to R Fretes 74. United States 3 Wales 0: J Daly 72 bt M Mouland 77, P Stewart 78 bt P Mayo 80, F Couples 71 bt I Woosnam 72.
TODAY'S TEE-OFF TIMES: Group 2: South Africa v Mexico: 0930 Els v Alarcon; 0940 Allem v Espinoza; 0950 Frost v Brito. England v Taiwan: 1000 Baker v Yuan Ching-chi; 1010 Faldo v Chen Liang-hsi; 1020 James v Chung Chun-hsing. Group 4: Australia v Japan: 1030 Davis v Mizumaki; 1040 Parry v Yoneyama, 1050 Senior v Nishikawa. Sweden v Canada: 1100 Parnevik v Zokol; 1110 Haeggman v Rutledge; 1120 Forsbrand v Barr. Group 3: United States v Paraguay: 1140 Daly v Franco; 1150 Stewart v Fretes; 1200 Couples v Franco. Scotland v Wales: 1210 Montgomerie v Woosnam; 1220 Torrance v Mayo; 1230 Brand Jnr v Mouland. Group 1: Zimbabwe v Argentina: 1240 Price v Romero; 1250 McNulty v Fernandez; 1300 Johnstone v Coceres. Spain v Ireland: 1310 Jimenez v Feherty; 1320 Rivero v McGinley; 1330 Olazabal v Rafferty.