Golf: Montgomerie triumphs with cool finish

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The Independent Online
ONE DAY, if Colin Montgomerie is ever in the position to win a major championship by making a brave four at the closing hole, he can reflect that he has managed the feat before under just as much pressure.

Twice Montgomerie has recorded his par at the fiendishly difficult final hole at Valderrama when he could not afford a mistake. One occasion was in 1995 when he held off Sam Torrance to win the Order of Merit. The other was last September and meant the little matter of Europe winning the Ryder Cup.

The Scot did it again yesterday at Wentworth to win the Volvo PGA Championship for the first time. The pounds 200,000 first prize not only shot the five-times No1 back up the money list but emphasised the importance of the event as the flagship tournament of the European Tour. Beforehand Montgomerie indicated that this was the sixth biggest event he plays in, behind the four majors and the US Players' Championship.

"This stands me in good stead," Montgomerie said. "I know I can do it when it matters. The Ryder Cup obviously helped me. When it really matters, I don't seem to suffer from nerves, I just get the ball in the hole."

Montgomerie came to the famous 18th at the end of a dramatic afternoon needing a birdie four to break out of a tie with three other players, including his arch rival Ernie Els, who were already in the clubhouse at 13 under. "I didn't fancy myself in a play-off," Monty said. His record confirmed the fact; one win and four losses in extra time.

In the Ryder Cup at Valderrama his tee shot against Scott Hoch was one of the few to find the fairway, and was voted the shot of 1997, but his three-wood here faded into the right rough. Blocked out by the trees at the corner of the dogleg, Montgomerie had to pitch onto the fairway and then had to get up and down from 105 yards. His wedge finished pin high, eight feet to the right.

At the previous hole, the 34-year-old Scot was required to hole a similar length putt for a par and again the ball disappeared below ground. "I pushed it a hair to the right but it went in," Montgomerie said.

Before the round he had said he required a 68 to win. In fact that would have given a shot to spare. However, his closing 69 was enough to squeeze home in front of the Swede Patrik Sjoland, who closed with a second successive 66, Gary Orr, Dean Robertson, and Els.

The South African had a 15-foot eagle putt at the last, but it just missed and he had to settle for a 68. Montgomerie is slowly crawling back the gap in their head-to-head battles, but Els still holds the upper hand with two US Opens. "Good playing, Colin," Els said at the prizegiving, "but I think I'm still one up on you."

"The most pleasing thing about today," Montgomerie replied, "is seeing Ernie Els sitting there in the runners-up spot. That's usually where I am. Let's hope it's the same in a couple of weeks' time at the US Open."

But while Els was always lurking, Robertson took the lead with birdies at the 12th and 13th. Montgomerie had to match those just to keep in touch and Robertson only departed the scene when his drive ended in the trees at the 16th costing a double-bogey.

"I played with a young man who I now have a lot of respect for," Montgomerie said, "but as I said earlier in the week, Ernie is the best player in the world and if you finish in front of him, you will usually win."

VOLVO PGA CHAMPIONSHIP (Wentworth) Leading final scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 274 C Montgomerie 70 70 65 69; 275 P Sjoland (Swe) 72 71 66 66; E Els (SA) 69 69 69 6; G Orr 70 69 68 68; 276 P Lonard (Aus) 72 65 71 68; A Coltart 72 66 70 68; T Bjorn (Den) 70 69 69 68; M Hallberg (Swe) 68 69 69 70; D Robertson 70 69 67 70; 277 P McGinley 72 69 68 68; 278 G Brand Jnr 71 69 72 66; P Price 71 72 68 67; P Harrington 70 69 69 70; D Gilford 70 69 68 71; 279 C Rocca (It) 71 70 70 68; 280 S Leaney (Aus) 69 73 71 67; J-M Olazabal (Sp) 72 71 70 67; S Torrance 70 71 71 68; L Westwood 71 71 69 69; J Van de Velde (Fr) 71 71 69 69; 281 P-U Johansson (Swe) 70 71 72 68; R Karlsson (Swe) 71 71 71 68; R Davis (Aus) 73 69 69 70; V Phillips 70 73 68 70; D Howell 68 71 71 71; W Westner (SA) 73 69 68 71; M Florioli (It) 75 68 67 71; S Ballesteros (Sp) 72 71 65 73; 282 D Clarke 71 68 75 68; D Hospital (Sp) 69 69 74 70; B Langer (Ger) 69 70 72 71; J Coceres (Arg) 73 69 68 72; 283 F Tarnaud (Fr) 73 69 72 69; R Wessels (SA) 71 71 71 70; M Jonzon (Swe) 66 70 72 75; G Turner (NZ) 70 68 70 75; 284 T Johnstone (Zim) 69 73 73 69; M McNulty (Zim) 69 72 72 71; P Senior (Aus) 72 70 69 73, M Roe 71 71 69 73.

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