In the early 1970s, Peter Oosterhuis, now a television commentator, finished top of the merit table on four successive years, but Big Oosty would be the first to admit that his achievement, unique as it was, bore no relation to Big Monty's hat-trick. "There are many more world-class players now than then," Oosterhuis said. "Montgomerie showed so much character. I was quite proud of him."
When Oosterhuis - his main rivals were Tony Jacklin, Bernard Gallacher and Neil Coles - won the Order of Merit for the first time in 1971, he won a total of pounds 8,097 in prize money. By 1974, when he played in 13 tournaments, finishing in the top three in 11 of them, his income was a bit more respectable, pounds 27,419, but even so, the following year he left for America. His combined earnings for those four successful years was pounds 68,153.
On Sunday in the Volvo Masters at Valderrama, Montgomerie took his prize money in Europe this season to pounds 835,051.40. He finished second in the championship to Alexander Cejka, but was a stroke in front of Torrance. Montgomerie won pounds 83,400 plus a bonus of pounds 125,000.
"This is my eighth year and I've never gone down in the Order of Merit," Monty said. "It's been a great battle with Sam and I feel quite fortunate. It must be hard for him to take." The 42-year-old Torrance, in his 25th year on the Tour, has been third on two occasions and second twice. His consolation is prize money of pounds 755,706 (taking his career earnings well past the pounds 3m mark) and that does not include the share of pounds 300,000 he, Montgomerie and Andrew Coltart won in guiding Scotland to the Alfred Dunhill Cup. He and Montgomerie also, of course, contributed to Europe's Ryder Cup victory over America in Oak Hill.
The Volvo Masters, the end of tour showpiece, was missing Seve Ballesteros, who is spending time with his family, and Nick Faldo, who has split from his family. With a divorce from his wife, Gill, a former employee of his management company, IMG, pending, Faldo's future is uncertain.
Whether by accident or design, as Faldo's personal problems were being aired in America, both Torrance and Montgomerie pointed out the benefits to their careers of a stable home life. Torrance proposed to his second wife, the former actress Suzanne Danielle, on the eve of the 1991 Ryder Cup.
He attributes his renaissance to their partnership. "I think I was always very anxious in my younger years," Torrance said. "But she calms me down. We discuss everything. She is a very positive person and she takes all the worries off me."
Montgomerie - "you need a consistent home life" - also paid tribute to his caddie, Alastair McLean, a history graduate from Stirling University. "Other players may disagree, but I think I've got the best caddie on tour," Montgomerie said. "He never gives up and is always encouraging me. Apart from anything else, we're great friends." What, Monty was asked, is McLean's most valuable asset? "Me," he replied.
If the prolonged rivalry between Montgomerie and Torrance was one of the highlights of the European season, the Volvo Masters also produced, in the 24-year-old Cejka, a player of the future. His goal at the beginning of the year was to finish in the top 50 in the Order of Merit, and by his outstanding performance at Valderrama, he is sixth. He was the only player to finish under par on a course which, in two years' time, will stage the Ryder Cup. Cejka has every chance of playing in it.
In 1980, when he was nine, Cejka was taken by his golf-mad father, Peter, out of Marienbad in Czechoslovakia. They travelled through Yugoslavia, Italy and Switzerland before settling in Germany.
By the age of 16, his handicap was down to scratch. A regular at the Qualifying School, he won the Turespana Open in March and the Austrian Open in August. That was when he had a bet with his coach, Peter Karz, a former caddie, that if he won in Austria they would both shave their heads.
From having shoulder-length hair Cejka, who has been burning some serious midnight oil at an indoor practice facility in Munich, appeared totally bald. When he went to the Munich beer festival this year, he was refused admission because they thought he was a skinhead. He failed to qualify for the Open Championship in July, but his victory in the Volvo Masters will open doors to the majors next year.
As for Montgomerie, his priority for 1996 is not to emulate Oosty's four in a row, but to win a major championship and move alongside players like Norman, Price, Els and Faldo in the world rankings.
TOUR FACTS AND FIGURES
Lowest round: 61 (-11) Alexander Cejka (Brucke Open); (-11) Russell Claydon (German Masters)
Lowest total: 264 (-24) Anders Forsbrand (German Masters)
Highest winning score: 282 (-6) Jarmo Sandelin (Canaries Open); (-6) John Daly (Open); (-2) Alexander Cejka (Volvo Masters)
Biggest win: 8 shots Paul Broadhurst (French Open)
First-time winners: Fred Couples (Dubai); Santiago Luna (Madeira); Jarmo Sandelin (Canaries); Robert Karlsson (Open Mediterrania); Alexander Cejka (Andalucian); Adam Hunter (Portuguese); Andre Bossert (Cannes); Wayne Riley (Scottish); John Daly (Open); Scott Hoch (Dutch); Peter Teravainen (Czech); Mathias Gronberg (European Masters)
Most wins: 3 Sam Torrance (Italian, Irish, British Masters); Bernhard Langer (PGA, Deutsche Bank, European Open); Alexander Cejka (Andalucian Open, Brucke Open, Volvo Masters)
Course records: 23
Consecutive years with a win: 17 Bernhard Langer (1979-95)
Longest run without missing a cut: 68 Bernhard Langer (1991-1995)
Best stroke average: 69.69 Colin Montgomerie
Albatrosses: 3 Jose Maria Canizares (Andalucian), Per Haugsrud (French), Peter Baker (German Masters).
Most eagles: 16 Gary Orr, Darren Clarke, Peter Mitchell
Most birdies: 388 Sam Torrance
Most under par: -146 Colin MontgomerieReuse content