Golf: Monty is back on top of his game

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COLIN MONTGOMERIE hit the best putting streak of his career to reclaim his accustomed place on top of the Order of Merit by winning the German Masters yesterday after an excellent final round of 67.

Victory lifted the 35-year-old Scot over Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke to the top of the money list, more than pounds 111,000 clear, and with only two events left he is the firm favourite to collect a sixth consecutive Vardon Trophy. It was Montgomerie's second win in his last four events and almost guaranteed him a place in next year's Ryder Cup after a remarkable turnaround in fortunes.

Four weeks ago, he missed the cut for a second successive week at the BMW International in Munich, the first time he has suffered such an ignominy since 1991. That prompted a return to working under Bill Ferguson after a two-year separation and putting lessons from Dave Pelz, an American, and all the hard work paid off handsomely on the Jack Nicklaus-designed course with rounds of 65, 68, 66 and 67.

"It proved I'm coming through the bad spell," Montgomerie said. "When I started back with Bill I told him it would be nice to win twice by the end of the year and I've won twice in three weeks so it's encouraging. I think in the last month I've had the best putting statistics of my whole career.

"I'm not playing 100 per cent but I'm able to go for shots where before I didn't know whether it was going right or left. I was just having a nice game of golf today until Robert Karlsson went eagle, birdie and I was one behind and knew I had to make two birdies which I did."

Those birdies came at the par five 13th and 15th and set up a tense finish, Montgomerie having to hole a five-foot par putt on the 18th for victory. "That was more about courage than skill," he said.

Montgomerie's total of 266, 22-under-par, gave him a one-shot victory over the US PGA champion, Vijay Singh, and Sweden's Robert Karlsson, with Steve Webster a shot further back after finishing with five birdies in his last seven holes.

Westwood, who had been pounds 22,000 ahead of Montgomerie, rallied with a last round 66 after yesterday's 72 to finish on 17-under in a tie for sixth place. Darren Clarke, second at the start of the week, finished with a 69 and tied 21st, at 13 under.

Westwood was delighted with his last round 66 after a disappointing 72 on Saturday ruined his chances, a birdie on the last proving valuable.

"I said a three up the last could be worth it's weight in gold, it could make a big difference," Westwood said. "I gave myself a kick up the backside last night."Yesterday was awful and blew my chances but today I redeemed myself."

Nick Faldo finished with a 68, his seventh sub-par round in the last two events, to earn some more valuable Ryder Cup points, after finishing two shots ahead of Seve Ballesteros.

Scores, Digest, page 23


1 C Montgomerie pounds 760,077.45

2 L Westwood pounds 648,151.74

3 D Clarke pounds 616,867.10

4 P Sjoland (Swe) pounds 451,016.90