Golf: O'Malley steals the flower of Scotland

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The Independent Online
THE cross that Colin Montgomerie had to bear was all too obvious. He made light of it and on any other day he would have come down the 18th of the King's course probably leading a community rendering of Flower of Scotland. However, in the final round of the Bell's Scottish Open a former greenkeeper from Bathurst, near Sydney, produced the most astonishing finish to deflower what would have been a virgin Scottish victory. In the last five holes yesterday Peter O'Malley devoured Gleneagles.

O'Malley, four strokes off the pace after the third round, shot 62 yesterday. He had a solitary birdie in the first 13 holes and then scored eagle, birdie, birdie, birdie, eagle. O'Malley came home in 28 for an aggregate of 262, 18 under par and that, not surprisingly, was two too good for Montgomerie who finished second after a round of 65.

During his career O'Malley, aged 27, has won the Australian junior championship and precious little else. His beautifully timed onslaught here gave him his first professional victory and the invaluable prize of not having to qualify for the Open Championship today and tomorrow. The other four wild cards on offer here went to Costantino Rocca, Mats Lanner, Jamie Spence and Philip Walton.

O'Malley began his surge when he attacked the 14th, a vulnerable par four of just over 300 yards. Yesterday the pin was at the back of the green and when he stood on the tee he was 11 under par and adrift of the leaders, including his playing partner Nick Faldo. While Faldo left his tee shot short of the green, O'Malley hammered his drive to within 20 feet of the flag and sank the putt for an eagle two. Faldo could only par the hole.

'I thought, 'This is good', but I just didn't realise I was in contention,' O'Malley, 150-1 at the beginning of the tournament, said. Immediately behind him, Montgomerie had taken the lead with birdies at the 11th and 12th. After a poor finish in the third round, Montgomerie, born in Glasgow, was three adrift of Bernhard Langer and he wrote off his chances.

Yesterday he donned a sweater emblazoned with the saltire, a white cross on blue background, and the crowd at Gleneagles, to which Montgomerie is affiliated, were ready to acclaim the first Scottish victory in this championship.

Montgomerie came home in 32 but there was no stopping O'Malley: at the 15th he holed from 20 feet for a birdie-three; at the 16th from 12 feet for a birdie-two; at the 17th from eight feet for a birdie- three. Playing the 18th O'Malley was 16 under par for the championship and had drawn level with Montgomerie and was one ahead of Faldo and Mark McNulty, who had finished with a 63.

The Australian nailed his drive at the last and then hit a six-iron 198 yards to within 25 feet of the hole. He rammed the putt in for his second eagle. Faldo, bunkered from his drive, was helpless. Suddenly Montgomerie knew he would have to eagle the 18th and he knew he could not when his drive faded into a bunker on the right. 'I can't complain,' Montgomerie said. 'O'Malley had a miracle finish.' It was rubbing saltire into the wounds.