Golf: Montgomerie in class of his own

Volvo PGA Championship: Scot fires final-round 64 to retain title and serve notice that major win may be in sight
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The Independent Online
THERE ARE occasions when it is safe to say that Colin Montgomerie is playing the best golf of anyone, anywhere in the world. None of them have yet coincided with a major championship - there has always been at least one other blighter to outdo the Scot - but yesterday, being a Monday with all the other professional events around the world having finished on Sunday, was one such occasion.

There was much to entertain the Bank Holiday gallery during the final round of the Volvo PGA Championship but it did not include any kind of mystery about who was going to win. However, the air of inevitability that threatened to descend once Retief Goosen - who shared the overnight lead with Monty - took three putts on the first and the Scot birdied the second was lifted by the sheer quality of the golf on display.

Not content simply to retain his title at the second biggest event in Europe behind only the Open - the first player to achieve the feat since Nick Faldo in 1981 - Montgomerie produced the lowest round of the week, a 64, and equalled Bernhard Langer's tournament record of 18 under par.

There was no eagle at the last, as there had been on the previous two evenings, but a birdie putt from 12 feet took Monty to 15 under for his last 37 holes. Out in 32, he immediately holed birdie putts at the 10th and 11th and eagled the 12th from 10 feet to establish a five-stroke lead. That was the final winning margin, with the Ryder Cup captain, Mark James, winning the race for second place.

"To defend in any sport is difficult, especially in golf when 150 players start on day one, so to achieve it in the manner I did is very, very satisfying," Montgomerie said. "My course management and the execution of my shots was as good as I can achieve. It was one of those days and you know it can't continue, but long may it continue. I knew people were going to score low behind me and I needed to counteract that."

Goosen, who closed with a 71, topped the Order of Merit at the start of the day, but Montgomerie's first place cheque of pounds 216,679 has returned the Scot to the position he has held for the last six years. Goosen, however, did remain in the top two to earn a trip to the US Open at Pinehurst in a fortnight. That is Montgomerie's big target. "I just hope I can take this confidence and self-belief to Pinehurst," he said.

It was Paul Eales who made the first dramatic move. The third hole, a par four of 452 yards, can be a brute, but Eales holed his second shot with a three-iron from 190 yards for an eagle two. Eales did not drop a shot in his 67 and his third place cheque of pounds 81,379 was double his previous best for winning the Extremadura Open in 1994.

James, who earned pounds 144,500, had never before won a six-figure sum despite 18 victories, and his bogey-free 66 lifted the European captain to seventh in his own Ryder Cup standings. "One way or another I'll be at Brookline," James said. Whether it will be for the eighth time as a player is something James said he might have "to sit down with the powers that be" to solve at some point.

The "problem" might solve itself after this week's English Open as James is going to take most of June off. "I've got other commitments," said the keen gardener. "There are vegetables to be picked."

James was playing with Els and the South African was disappointed only to score a 68 and not get into the frame, but he acknowledged the standard set by the winner. "This is probably the best he has ever played, which is saying something," Els said. "The way he is playing, he will probably win a major."

Wentworth has always proved an accommodating home to all Europe's top stars and there is no reason why Sergio Garcia should not add to the victories of Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal. That the 19-year-old from Castellon is made of the right stuff was shown on Saturday when he came to the 18th needing an eagle to make the cut. His three-iron faded around the trees to three feet and he holed the putt.

Garcia scored a 66 yesterday, one better than another former PGA champion, Ian Woosnam. The frightening part was that the young Spaniard considered his putting only to be average, his longest birdie putt being from eight feet.

By finishing at seven under, Garcia, who plays in the Memorial Tournament in the States this week, tied for 19th to raise his earnings to pounds 34,500, only some pounds 18,000 short of gaining a card for next season.

VOLVO PGA CHAMPIONSHIP (Wentworth): Final scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 270 C Montgomerie 69 70 67 64 (pounds 216,678). 275 M James 67 70 72 66 (pounds 144,500). 276 P Eales 68 70 71 67 (pounds 81,378). 277 E Els (SA) 68 67 74 68, S Leaney (Aus) 73 67 69 68, R Goosen (SA) 67 69 70 71. 278 D Carter 71 70 69 68, M Gronberg (Swe) 69 73 67 69, B Langer (Ger) 65 73 70 70. 279 J Sandelin (Swe) 70 72 71 66, S Struver (Ger) 75 69 69 66, J M Olazabal (Sp) 68 70 72 69. 280 D Howell 72 72 71 65, W Bennett 70 74 69 67, J Van de Velde (Fr) 67 75 70 68, D Clarke 67 67 77 69, I Garbutt 74 68 68 70, R Karlsson (Swe) 70 68 71 71, R Karlsson (Swe) 70 68 71 71. 281 S Garcia (Sp) 72 73 70 66, P Broadhurst 73 69 72 67, S Allan (Aus) 72 69 71 69, J Parnevik (Swe) 70 69 72 70, M Campbell (NZ) 68 70 72 71, D Robertson 68 69 73 71, E Romero (Arg) 71 71 67 72. 282 I Woosnam 72 73 70 67, M Roe 70 70 73 69, S Lyle 70 70 71 71. 283 G Orr 71 70 73 69, C Rocca (Ita) 71 71 72 69, S Torrance 70 68 75 70, D Smyth 69 72 72 70, T Levet (Fr) 71 71 71 70, J Singh (Ind) 72 69 71 71, R Wessels (SA) 71 73 68 71, J Haeggman (Swe) 71 72 69 71, P Lonard (Aus) 69 70 70 74. 284 R Muntz (Neth) 71 72 73 68, M McNulty (Zim) 71 70 67 76. 285 P Linhart (Sp) 67 76 72 70, G Turner (NZ) 73 67 74 71, P Price 73 69 72 71. 286 M A Jimenez (Sp) 73 72 75 66, J Bickerton 73 72 74 67, R Russell 71 72 74 69, A Oldcorn 72 68 73 73. 287 A Coltart 72 73 73 69, P Lawrie 70 71 76 70, S Luna (Sp) 71 71 75 70, C Hainline (US) 73 72 72 70, M Long (NZ) 71 73 71 72, B Lane 70 74 71 72, P Fulke (Swe) 73 68 73 73. 288 F Cea (Sp) 72 73 72 71, D Gilford 70 70 75 73. 289 L Westwood 69 73 75 72, I Garrido (Sp) 74 70 73 72, P Harrington 74 70 72 73. 290 N Faldo 74 71 74 71, Zhang Lian-wei (China) 74 71 73 72, J Rivero (Sp) 67 76 71 76. 291 P Sjoland (Swe) 73 71 73 74. 292 P Nyman (Swe) 74 70 78 70, P Curry 70 74 71 77. 294 P Walton 73 72 74 75.

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