Golf: Montgomerie masters the beast to reap rich rewards - Scot hits the high road and pounds 250,000 jackpot after winning Volvo Masters by a stroke and overtaking Faldo to finish top of the European Order of Merit

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COLIN MONTGOMERIE hit the jackpot here yesterday when he won the Volvo Masters and finished top of the European Order of Merit. Nobody has ever played this demanding course as well as Montgomerie and the reward for the Scotsman is pounds 250,000 and the realisation that the high life begins at 30. The title earned him pounds 125,000 and he received a bonus for the same amount for heading the Merit table.

'I've never been under so much pressure in one round and that includes the Ryder Cup,' Montgomerie said. 'This means the world to me.' Big Monty, who has had a reputation for throwing teddy out of the pram when things go wrong, overtook Nick Faldo in the money list. 'This will help me to believe that I'm actually quite good at this game,' Montgomerie said. In addition to the money, Montgomerie gets a 10-year exemption on the European Tour, an invitation to the Johnnie Walker World Championship in Jamaica in December and more doors will open to the major championships.

Montgomerie won by one stroke from the Irishman, Darren Clarke, and by two from the Englishman, David Gilford, and the three were virtually out of sight from the rest of the field. Montgomerie and Clarke were the last pair out and they stood at seven under and six under for the tournament after the third round.

'A couple of fat boys together,' the 17st Clarke observed over a mineral water in a bar on Saturday night. Clarke's ambition this season has been to shed a couple of stone but that is not easy when you are partial to stout and pints of white wine. His discipline this week has been admirable, for a heavy-handed crew from his home town of Dungannon in Northern Ireland has been in weighty evidence in the bars and restaurants on the Costa del Sol.

Montgomerie's professional approach is also to be commended. His four rounds have been almost exemplary and nobody in the six-year history of this tournament has scored better. He had only six bogeys. Montgomerie said he took last week off to prepare mentally for Valderrama where 12 months ago he was defeated in a play-off by Sandy Lyle. That was par for the course in Big Monty's script: he spent most of his time lamenting the fact that he was always second, always the bridesmaid. After the brickbats have come the bouquets. The full Monty.

When the par of Valderrama was reduced to 71, Rodger Davis's four under aggregate in 1991 was the benchmark. Montgomerie left that for dead. Not everybody likes this course but Montgomerie accentuates the positive. He was never far from the leaderboard after scoring 69 in the first round. His greatest strength around here was his accuracy off the tee. 'What an asset that is,' he remarked, and that was before he won.

Yesterday, he and Clarke shot 68 and only Gilford threatened them. Clarke made a bad start with bogey fives at the first two holes and that gave Montgomerie, who birdied the second, a handsome lead. Clarke came back at him with three birdies in a row from the fourth. Montgomerie, however, had the blinkers on and he would not be dislodged. He had four birdies in his round and one bogey, at the seventh, where he duffed a chip. It was about his only false shot of the day. He said it was not a case of Monty's revenge for last year. 'I'm elated,' he said.

Clarke, despite three more birdies over the back nine, could not get into a position to see the whites of Big Monty's eyes, moving to within a stroke of the lead only at the last. 'He was awesome,' Clarke conceded.

More torrential rain on Saturday night softened up the course and the greens were particularly susceptible. By mid-afternoon they bore the scars of wear and tear and the third hole was in urgent need of a facelift after being bombarded by Barry Lane.

In the course of proving that a good score was possible, Lane hit a seven-iron at the short third and his ball dived into the hole like a demented submariner. The problem is it took a hefty lump of turf with it and a squadron of green keepers were hastily summoned to repair the hole.

Although there was a Volvo perched on an island in a lake near the 18th there was no car on offer for a hole in one. The modern professional can afford to buy one.

VOLVO MASTERS (Valderrama, Sp) Leading final scores (GB or Irl unless stated):274 C Montgomerie 69 70 67 68. 275 D Clarke 69 73 65 68. 276 D Gilford 68 72 67 69. 281 V Singh (Fiji) 72 72 67 70. 282 I Woosnam 71 67 71 73. 284 M McNulty (Zim) 73 73 67 71. 285 C Mason 76 70 72 67. . 286 C Rocca (It) 75 71 72 68; J Parnevik (Swe) 70 75 69 72; 287 M A Jimenez (Sp) 73 70 75 69; R Goosen (SA) 72 75 71 69; R Davis (Aus) 74 74 70 69; J Coceres (Arg) 74 73 70 70, E Els (SA) 73 72 71 71. Other scores: 289 H Clark 72 74 75 68; S Lyle 78 70 70 71; S Torrance 74 70 71 74; 290 B Langer (Ger) 72 71 74 73; J-M Olazabal (Sp) 70 74 73 73. 291 M James 79 72 70 70; N Faldo 74 70 75 72; E Romero (Arg) 70 75 73 73.

ORDER OF MERIT Leading final places: 1 Montgomerie 613,682.70; 2 Faldo 558,738.33; 3 Woosnam 501,353.41; 4 Langer 469,569.64; 5 Torrance 421,328.19; 6 Rocca 403,866.48; 7 P Baker 387,988.84; 8 Clarke 369,675.08; 9 Brand Jnr 367,589.10; 10 B Lane 339,218.47; 11 James 335,589.34, 12 R Rafferty 311,125.03, 13 S Richardson 304,015.12, 14 F Nobilo (NZ) 294,598.76, 15 J Haeggman (Swe) 287,370.84, 16 D Gilford 273,301.31, 17 Parnevik 272,511.73, 18 Olazabal 249,493.14, 19 P Broadhurst 243,588.17, 20 W Westner (SA) 226,297.89