Golf: Monty revels in fresh pastures

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TOO OFTEN Colin Montgomerie has had the fag-end of it at the Benson and Hedges International, and the Scot was determined not to let it happen again. Not even the presence of his nemesis, Jose Maria Olazabal, could put Monty off. The Masters champion can count the British Amateur in 1984 and the 1990 Lancome Trophy among his victories over Montgomerie, but the Spaniard was barely a shadow of the competitor Greg Norman came up against at Augusta last month.

While Olazabal could only manage one birdie in his 74, Montgomerie never went over par. A closing 68 gave him a total of 15 under par, and a three- stroke win over Angel Cabrera and Per-Ulrik Johansson. Instead of Ollie, it was the 29-year-old from Cordoba, Cabrera, whose only previous victories have come in South America, who became the main challenger.

He led early on and was within a stroke of Montgomerie when he missed a short birdie putt at the 17th. Needing a birdie at the last to have any hope, he failed to get up and down from a greenside bunker.

All that was left for Montgomerie to do was to clear the water at the 17th with his second shot, a three-wood from 252 yards, and when the ball appeared on dry land the Scot positively beamed from beneath the visor he wears whenever the television cameras are on him. "I didn't know I had a two-shot lead," he said, "but I hit the ball solidly and as soon as it was in the air the tournament was over."

Arriving at The Oxfordshire on Wednesday after three weeks off, when he did not touch a club, Monty's declared aims were not only to win a tournament he has consistently contended but never won, but two of three which continue with the Deutsche Bank Open this week and the Volvo PGA Championship at Wentworth.

"It seems to benefit me to take a break and come back fresh," Montgomerie said. "I got stale over six weeks in the States, but only to have two bogeys in four rounds around a demanding course like this shows I was fresh. It is nice to win this tournament eventually, and to hold the PGA and B&H titles at the same time is something I am very proud of."

Despite a double bogey at the 12th, Nick Faldo managed a 69, his third sub-70 round of the week. While he will not zoom up the Ryder Cup points list, the last four days at least represent a change in fortunes for the 41-year-old. His seventh place finish was his best since being fourth in the Australian Open last December.

"I am pleased with that, considering I'm rebuilding things," Faldo said. Apart from his own desire, which is as strong as ever, Britain's top-earning sportsman recently got a sharp reminder of the support he retains among the public. "I was out in London and a van driver leaned out of the window, took out his fag and said: `Oi, Nick, ****ing sort it out. We need you,' " related a Faldo relishing the continuing underlying status he enjoys in Britain.

The best round of the day came on a calm morning when Jeremy Robinson lowered the course record by one to 64.

As Robinson holed his eighth birdie putt at the last, to go with the eagle at the seventh, he looked at his watch, saw the time was 11.30am and thought of his son Tom, who was just about to be christened in Evesham.

Robinson, who won a card at the Tour School while playing with a back injury, got into the tournament thanks to the withdrawals of Lee Westwood on Wednesday and Alex Cejka on Thursday. But his prize of pounds 28,000 will go a long way to prevent a return trip to the school.

BENSON & HEDGES INTERNATIONAL (The Oxfordshire, Thame) Final scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 273 C Montgomerie 68 66 71 68; 276 A Cabrera (Arg) 69 67 71 69, P-U Johansson (Swe) 68 65 74 69; 277 M A Jimenez (Sp) 65 72 72 68, D Borrego (Sp) 74 67 66 70; 278 J Robinson 73 67 74 64; 279 P Nyman (Swe) 74 66 73 66, E Romero (Arg) 71 68 73 67, R Green (Aus) 72 69 70 68, N Faldo 68 69 73 69, P Sjoland (Swe) 69 70 71 69, J Van de Velde (Fr) 71 70 68 70, B May (US) 71 70 68 70, B Langer (Ger) 68 72 68 71, E Darcy 72 68 68 71; 280 I Woosnam 71 70 71 68, P Harrington 70 71 71 68, J Lomas 71 67 71 71, JM Olazabal (Sp) 70 67 69 74; 281 R Davis (Aus) 72 69 72 68, D Robertson 72 69 72 68, D Clarke 70 71 71 69, E Canonica (It) 71 70 71 69, G Evans 72 67 71 71, P McGinley 72 67 70 72, A Forsbrand (Swe) 70 70 69 72, M Gronberg (Swe) 72 69 68 72, P Price 65 70 72 74; 282 S Leaney (Aus) 70 71 72 69, P O'Malley (Aus) 71 69 70 72, P Affleck 71 69 69 73, S Hansen (Den) 69 68 71 74.