Golf: Monty's poor show is par for course

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The Independent Online
AS AN exercise in boosting the confidence of British golfers going into this week's US Masters, the final round of the BellSouth Classic was less than successful. Colin Montgomerie closed with a 76, making Europe's No1 a combined 19 over par for the last day of his four tournaments in the United States.

"I lost interest at the end," said Montgomerie, who bogeyed the last three holes. "Nothing was happening. I didn't have any confidence going into the weekend, and I haven't got any leaving it. This was my 16th round in the States and the 16th time I've putted badly."

As for the Masters, a tournament at which Montgomerie has often struggled before finishing eighth last year, the Scot said: "I'm not worried about next week. It hasn't worked out in the past and if it doesn't work out this time, it'll be no different. I am not going there with any expectations, I'm just going to play. It is just another tournament. I might do well, I might not."

Ian Woosnam was so frustrated with his putting that he handed over his putter to a nine-year-old boy in the gallery after his 75. "My short game is diabolical. It is driving me nuts," the Welshman said. "What is disappointing is that I am beginning to hit the ball better, but I can't get the ball in the hole."

Woosnam will contemplate returning to the broom-handled version at Augusta, but more importantly will first get treatment for the back injury he suffered on Friday. "My back is sore more than anything else," he said.

David Duval, a week after a gruelling but ultimately successful campaign at The Players' Championship, was again in contention on the final day of the BellSouth. Duval, by his own admission, has not played his best at the TPC of Sugarloaf, but it was still good enough to share third place with a round to go, one stroke behind Stewart Cink, who has just bought a house on the 14th hole here, and the Canadian Mike Weir.

The 27-year-old American did not even consider the possibility of a let- down following his big win in his home town of Jacksonville last week. "What happened at Sawgrass has no bearing on how I played this week," he said. "I am good at forgetting it and getting on with focusing on the next one. What are you going to start doing? Not play after you win a tournament? That won't work."

But Duval has taken the sensible precaution of not immediately going on to Augusta, a two-hour drive from Atlanta. Instead, he will rest and not play a practice round until Wednesday. He has already seen the changes to the course in two outings there last month.

The chance of victory in the Bellsouth held more significance for some as it would guarantee a trip to the Masters. Weir, who won the Qualifying School last year, and Rory Sabbatini, the youngest player on the US tour, were both in that category.

Sabbatini, who celebrated his 23rd birthday with a 65 on Friday to take a four-stroke advantage at the halfway point, only got into the tournament as an alternate and vowed to have fun. A 73 on Saturday left the South African tied for third with Duval and John Huston.

"When I started going downhill, I looked like the Exxon Valdes," Sabbatini said. "Golf is a funny thing, a lot like love. It is not how you handle the good things but when you have adversity."

A pro for only six months, Sabbatini is sure where he is heading. "I am a little fish in a big pond," he said. "I am like the guy nipping at the line but keep getting thrown back. Each day I am growing. When I get to the right size, I will be ready."

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