Golf: Monty through to face Els: Scot stays the distance

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The Independent Online
COLIN MONTGOMERIE survived a day of frayed nerves and gruelling golf to register the narrowest possible victory over Vijay Singh and carry British hopes into today's final against Ernie Els. The pair will also carry the hopes that the 1994 Toyota World Match Play Championship will be remembered for the quality of golf served up on the first two days.

Yesterday was a disappointment as a spectacle but perhaps this was understandable under the conditions. It fell to Montgomerie and Singh to lead the four semi-finalists into what was touted as a brave new dawn for world golf. The trouble was that the dawn could not be seen through thick fog that delayed the start by two hours and was hardly visible even when the fog lifted, so infrequent were the swashbuckling moments.

Friday's departure from this tournament of Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and the reigning champion, Corey Pavin, encouraged the view that a fresh contingent were moving in to take over global domination from the old guard. The four semi-finalists were all younger than those they ejected on Friday and are poised to join the greats.

But the brilliant golf played by the old guard before their exit, particularly Ballesteros, left a shadow that clung to Wentworth more persistently than the autumn mists. Maybe Montgomerie and Singh had the better excuse. As non-seeded players they were experiencing their third consecutive 36- hole day and they struggled to give the impression of golfers who have suddenly found the world at their feet.

Montgomerie managed to look as if he had the world around his neck at times and he suffered one or two outbursts of temper. Those gathered in strength around the 18th green at lunchtime witnessed one display when the Scot stormed off after taking a five leaving Singh wondering whether or not the hole had been conceded.

Montgomerie, who was two down after two holes, had fought his way back to take the lead at the 17th. Both hit good drives down the 18th and Singh, playing first, put his second to within five feet of the pin. This brought a roar from the crowd who had been waiting a long time for a glimpse of the golfers. They were not as welcoming, however, when Montgomerie's second landed on a slope left of the green.

Unfortunately, while Montgomerie was shaping up to play from the side of the green a noise disturbed him and he glared up at the guests of the sponsor crowding the balconies of the hospitality stand. It was a reminder, perhaps, that the real reason for our presence was to sell cars, not play golf. In the event, he picked up his ball after missing a putt and stomped up the grass verge towards the clubhouse. Singh, meanwhile, was replacing his ball for his eagle putt and realised the game no longer had a quorum.

There is no doubt that the Scot was tired. He was entitled to be after expending much emotional energy in overcoming Faldo on Friday. That was a big breakthrough for him and the two-hour delay yesterday would not have helped him to recover his concentration.

Singh won the first hole with a 40-foot putt from off the green and the second was gifted to him when Montgomerie fouled up a short chip to the green and then missed a five- foot putt. As he was walking to the third tee he passed a Scottish pressman who offered an encouraging: 'Come on, Monty.'

Montgomerie spun around and yelled: 'Don't you talk to me. Your job is to report this match. Concentrate on your job.'

Although they both birdied the fourth, neither could find the spark to illuminate the morning and they parred their way on in an uninspiring manner. But Montgomerie produced the steadier golf and when Singh's work began to get wayward on the back nine of the morning round Montgomerie hit back to square the match.

He took the lead early in the second round and then chipped in with a wedge to go two in front at the fifth. A Singh eagle on the 12th brought them level again but then Montgomerie completed the last seven holes in three under par, taking the winning lead at the 17th with two prodigious shots.

'We didn't play that well but I was four under par on what was a long, long day,' Montgomerie said. No one should doubt his capacity to stay victorious after the long day he faces today.