Golf: Monty is weather beaten

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The Independent Online
With the golf overrunning here at The Oxfordshire, the BBC 2 programme Land of the Eagle had to be cancelled, which was a shame because there have not been many observed over the four days at the Benson and Hedges International. The good news yesterday was that the temperature rose a little. The cloud in this particular silver lining, however, was that the threat of thunder and lightning twice suspended play.

The first break of 45 minutes came when the third-round leaders were still lingering over their breakfast, but a second interruption of an hour and 40 minutes, half-way through their final round, put the blighted tournament even further behind schedule. This was the cue for a queue to form at the exits and only the hardiest of die-hard golf supporters, having been battered by wind and rain all day, remained to see Bernhard Langer attempt a soggy German double with Michael Schumacher.

Langer had maintained his one-stroke overnight lead as he and Lee Westwood both went to the turn in 35. A birdie at the 11th took him two clear, although the young Englishman did well to salvage a par-five despite driving into the water.

Ian Woosnam had thought about going into the clubhouse after nine holes on Saturday and probably should have stayed there at that point yesterday. Resuming after the break, he hit his second into water at the 10th, almost went in with his fourth and dropped back with a double bogey six.

The tournament's problems were not helped by being scheduled for a late finish anyway due to BBC TV's coverage. "Television give us our deadlines for the finish and they wanted 6.15pm," Andy McFee, the tournament director, said. The sponsors are hoping to move to a late summer date, but as McFee said: "We are within five or six weeks of midsummer and when I played here last week, there was not a breath of wind."

Colin Montgomerie was one of those who had got home, and was probably sitting with his feet up in front of the box, when the Beeb were forced to go to highlights of previous action. Against the odds, Montgomerie was the voice of reason despite finishing with a closing round of 81.

"This is a great course in great condition which has been spoilt by the weather," Montgomerie said. "It is unfortunate, but it is not doing any good for us, the spectators or the viewing public. Why can't we play in Britain in July and August and play somewhere else in May."

In fact, the Tour follows with two more events within touching distance of London, the Alamo English Open at Hanbury Manor and the Volvo PGA Championship at Wentworth. At least the latter is considerably more sheltered than The Oxfordshire, which is more exposed than a streaker at a Winter Olympic sport.

Montgomerie, who also shot an 81 in the final round of the US Masters last month, at least bettered his closing effort here a year ago by three shots. Having also failed to break 80 in the last round of the Scottish Open at a windswept Carnoustie, Montgomerie hardly lives up to his hardy Celtic heritage.

"I have never won a tournament in the wind because my putting grip is very light," he said. Any chance of a morale-boosting round to finish blew away when he five-putted at the short second hole. "I just kept going backwards and forwards," Montgomerie said. His embarrassment was increased by having his Ryder Cup captain, Seve Ballesteros, who shot 75, as his nearest observer.

In Portugal, Mandy Sutton's decision to give up a career in banking paid off yesterday when she took the pounds 13,500 winner's prize in the Estoril Open. Sutton, aged 33, shot a final round of 71 for a five-under-par aggregate of 202 to finish one stroke ahead of Denmark's Karina Orum. Australian Shani Waugh, winner in Portugal last year, finished third. Sutton had won only a modest pounds 7,045 in her first two years on the Tour but she never looked back after shooting a course record 63 in the first round. She was three shots clear of Orum with two holes to play but the Dane birdied the 17th from eight feet when Sutton, in a divot with her drive, dropped a shot. With two putts to win the title on the last green, Sutton ran her first attempt three feet past the hole but holed the return to seal her first victory. "I gave up my career in the City because I wanted to find out how good I could become at golf," Sutton, from Worksop, said. "It feels great to win but I can't believe that I have done it."

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