Golf: Monty puts pretender in his place

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Lee Westwood had surmised, not unnaturally, that he was better off starting off three strokes ahead of Colin Montgomerie than one behind. Alas, he was not.

At the European Grand Prix last month, Monty had shot a last round 65 to defeat Westwood by six shots. The pair, Europe's main man and his young pretender, were again paired in the final two-ball at the Murphy's Irish Open yesterday and the Scot took the title for the second year running with a stunning course record of 62, nine under par. Monty rounded off his superb performance by holing from 40 feet for his eighth birdie at the 17th.

It represented a 10-shot swing on his opponent and if this was the sort of experience that Nick Faldo said earlier in the week Westwood needed to learn from to complete his golfing education, it was a hard lesson none the less. The 24-year-old from Worksop has also encountered Jose- Maria Olazabal and Bernhard Langer in victorious form when he has set off in the last group of tournaments this year, but his second place prize of pounds 75,745 must assure him of a place in the Ryder Cup team for September.

Montgomerie, who earned pounds 113,636, moved into second place on the money list, which he has won for the last four years. The leader, Ian Woosnam, did his best to limit the damage by moving up to fourth place with Michael Jonzon, one better than Olazabal but two behind Faldo.

"Forgetting what is coming up," Monty said of this week's World Invitational and then the Open at Troon, "I want to savour what is my best performance over four rounds in Europe. I have shot lower, but this round is up there with my best. I am very confident and everything is going well at an important time.

"Lee did well to hold off Faldo and he'll get over this. He is playing some of the best golf in Europe and it is a great moment in his career to clinch a place in the Ryder Cup team. I'm looking forward to my next round of golf with him."

Westwood was swiftly overwhelmed when Montgomerie went to the turn in a best of the week 30. His overnight advantage had disappeared by the third. At the first, Westwood three-putted from the front edge, while Montgomerie holed from 10 feet for a birdie. Another came at the third and though Westwood did not do much wrong on the rest of the front nine, an eagle at the fifth and birdies at eight and nine put Monty one in front.

A sense of inevitability, however, had already settled over the contest. Westwood bogeyed the 10th; drove into a bush at the 11th, took a drop and was unable to match Monty's birdie; saw the Scot convert his tee shot to five feet at the short 12th and then fired his approach wide at the 13th to drop five behind. Last year, when he had to rely on Andrew Oldcorn taking a double bogey at the last to win, Montgomerie played this dangerous hole in four over. This time he was one under for the week at the hole.

The rest of the chasing pack started too far back, but both Olazabal and Faldo picked up valuable Ryder Cup points. Until he collected three birdies in the last five holes, the most dramatic thing that happened to Faldo was seeing his caddie, Fanny Sunesson, floored when she walked into an advertising board for the title sponsors. Most people go directly to the product to achieve a horizontal position.

As for the quality of the leaderboard, it justified the decision of the promoters to take up their option to bring the tournament back to Druids Glen for a third year running, news that had the Montgomerie visage beaming even brighter.