Golf: Montgomerie fumes on way to early exit

Scotsman starts the rot as all five British players suffer a humiliating early exit in new world tournament
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The Independent Online
FRANKIE MINOZA, of The Philippines, was the first but not the only player to discover that San Diego is a long way to go for a day trip. All five British players, including Colin Montgomerie and Lee Westwood, were among those who ended the first day of the Andersen Consulting World Matchplay Championship some pounds 15,625 richer, but on an aeroplane back home.

Montgomerie, who won this title when it was an unofficial event in 1997, had promised that the first round would provide a number of shocks but did not expect to be among them. But then nor did Mark O'Meara, last October's champion at Wentworth, Westwood, Davis Love and Ernie Els, who lost a tight match to Paul Azinger at the last hole. Only Tiger Woods and David Duval remain of the top seven seeds.

While Nick Faldo's 4 and 3 defeat by the world No 1, Woods, was only to be expected, it was the size and manner of the European No 1 Montgomerie's 5 and 3 loss to Craig Stadler that was the surprise. If the Scot's potential draw looked negotiable, his first-round opponent was not. Stadler is a native of San Diego and the "Walrus" proved a canny competitor, belying his seeding of 59th.

Stadler was in front after two early birdies but then Montgomerie handed his opponent the seventh, eighth and 10th holes. Monty was five down at the turn against Mark Calcavecchia in a Ryder Cup match at Kiawah Island in 1991 and still managed to gain half a point. That was a great comeback but there was to be no repeat. Montgomerie chipped in at the short 14th but had to concede the match at the next.

Fuming as he was at the defeat Montgomerie, who was twice heckled on the course, managed a generous tribute to his conqueror. "He is a local San Diegan and good luck to him. He could go all the way if he continues playing as he did today," Montgomerie said. "He never missed a fairway or a green and deserved to win. He played better, simply as that."

Westwood always knew he could come up against Eduardo Romero in a destructive mood but did not expect to self-destruct. He four-putted at the fourth to lose his early advantage and, though Romero bogeyed the sixth, Westwood did the same at the next. It was at the 10th that Romero thought the Englishman's heart went out of the match. While Westwood missed from nine feet for a birdie, Romero got his chip from heavy rough to six feet and holed to save par.

Bogeys at 13 and 14 led to Westwood's 3 and 2 loss. "Lee's second shots and his putting were terrible," Romero said. "I always thought I had a good chance. I am much better at matchplay than medal play."

Westwood confirmed: "Everything was off. I don't know what to put it down to."

Woods was not on top of his game but did not need to be. Faldo's tactics almost seemed to be to drag his opponent down to his own level, but when the American went three up at the ninth he was always going to cruise home. Faldo's most embarrassing moment came at the short 14th, where his tee shot barely went 100 yards and fell short of the water in front of the green. Woods later explained a mobile phone had rung on the Englishman's downswing.

"It's a shame that happened," Woods said. "People should turn their phones off or not bring them, period. But you can never feel sorry for your opponent on the course. I was able to hang in there and beat a great champion." In the second round, Woods faces Bob Tway, who achieved the biggest win of the day with a 6 and 4 victory over Tom Watson.

Ian Woosnam went out to Scott Hoch 3 and 2, while Andrew Magee scored an approximate 76 in beating Darren Clarke at the last. It was left to the Continentals to maintain European honour. Thomas Bjorn was never ahead against Brian Watts but neither was he more than one down before squaring the match at the 16th and winning at the last.

Bjorn is proving himself a resistant matchplayer. He was four down after four against Justin Leonard in the Ryder Cup at Valderrama in '97, but got a half-point. Bernhard Langer was up against the same opponent as at Valderrama and again beat Brad Faxon. Langer today plays Vijay Singh, who comfortably disposed of Rocco Mediate, while Jose Maria Olazabal, after beating Billy Mayfair 5 and 3, faces not O'Meara but Michael Bradley.

Although Miguel Angel Jimenez lost to the former Open champion Leonard and Jesper Parnevik to Craig Parry, there was a fine 5 and 3 win for Sweden's Patrik Sjoland against Jim Furyk. The performance will have improved Sjoland's chances of making his debut in the European Ryder Cup team in September, both in terms of the qualifying points he will pick up and in impressing the captain, Mark James. It is his third tournament in the States and today he plays Carlos Franco, the Paraguayan who impressed at the President's Cup.

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