Golf: Montgomerie serves notice of PGA intent

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The Independent Online
COLIN MONTGOMERIE hit his way to a nine-shot victory at the Volvo Scandinavian Masters here in Sweden to sound a loud warning ahead of next week's USPGA in Illinois.

The Scot clinched his fourth European Tour victory of the season - he had never claimed more than three in a single campaign before - with a threeunder score of 69 to finish nine strokes clear of the defending champion Jesper Parnevik.

It was the biggest winning margin on the European Tour this year, beating the previous mark - Paul Lawrie won the Qatar Masters by seven shots. "I thought about both Clarke and Van de Velde this morning, because they both lost big leads," Montgomerie said. "I had everything to lose today because I was expected to win and that put a special kind of tension on me.

"But I came through and I'm delighted that for the first time I have won four tournaments in Europe in a year. That implies I am still improving, which is very important to me."

Montgomerie, whose 20 under par total was a record for the Barseback course, said: "My game plan was to go out and make pars and I never felt I could get into trouble. I started well at the beginning of the week and just built on it." Victory at the Medinah Club next week would provide immense comfort for Montgomerie, whose big aim is a major title. He was runner-up in the 1995 USPGA, losing a play-off to Steve Elkington.

Montgomerie's massive advantage was never under serious threat yesterday. His six-shot cushion at the start of the fourth round soon became seven, when his playing partner Paul Broadhurst bogeyed the opening hole.

Conditions were in stark contrast to the rest of the week as glorious sunshine was replaced by wind and rain, and scores suffered as a result. But the hard work had been done over the first three rounds.

Montgomerie did drop a shot at the 476-yard par four third. It was only his fifth bogey of the week and put him back to 16 under. He had hit the green in two but came up 30 feet short of the flag. The Scot left his first putt five feet short and missed the next one for par. But his lead was still six shots over a chasing pack.

The 36-year-old got that shot back with a birdie four at the fifth, then extended the lead to seven with another at the ninth. He opened the back nine with six straight pars before birdie fours at the 16th and 17th took him to 20 under - nine clear of Par-nevik, who bogeyed the 17th.

The consolation for Parnevik is that he moves a step closer to his target of qualifying automatically for the Ryder Cup.

Montgomerie's triumph is no guarantee he will do the same at the USPGA. Only last month the man who shares the unwanted label with Phil Mickelson as the `best players never to win a major' claimed victory at Loch Lomond, before falling off the pace in the second round at the Open Championship.

Montgomerie's pounds 166,000 first prize has put him in command in the race to win the Order of Merit for the seventh successive season. He is now pounds 291,000 ahead of Lee Westwood.

n At Gleneagles, Laura Davies pulled off a dramatic play-off victory over Sweden's Maria Hjorth in the WPGA Championship of Europe. At the second extra hole, the 17th, a par four was good enough to land the pounds 45,000 first prize after Hjorth found trouble from the tee and could manage only a five.

Scores, Digest, page 9