Golf: World stage awaits Monty's magic

Golf: Amiable Scot heads the European Order of Merit for sixth successive year but a greater challenge still beckons
Click to follow
The Independent Online
COLIN MONTGOMERIE is not the only player in the history of the European Tour to win the order of merit six times. A measure of his achievement in completing the feat in the minimum time possible is that it took Seve Ballesteros 16 years to set the record. The first three may have taken three years but the last three took 13 as the tour the Spaniard helped create developed into an exhausting, fiercely competitive nine-month marathon.

Major champions such as Nick Faldo, Ian Woosnam and Bernhard Langer have only won the money list twice each and Jose Maria Olazabal not at all. In his premium strength six-pack, Montgomerie has seen off first all the old stars of the tour and now the new ones.

Darren Clarke's impressive victory on Sunday at Montecastillo in the Volvo Masters, the season's finale, was good enough to leapfrog Lee Westwood into second place on the order of merit, but not to dislodge Monty as the king of the castle. "This is a very proud moment for me and my family," said Montgomerie. "Darren and Lee are world-class players. Their time will come."

"Lee and I did our best to beat Monty but it was not good enough," Clarke said. "We tried to beat him this year and now we know how difficult it is to win the order of merit once. To win it six times is an amazing feat."

The irony is that the trophy handed out to the leading money winner every season is named after Harry Vardon, a man commemorated for winning the Open Championship six times. Perhaps it is because of the fact he has not yet triumphed in the greatest of championships that Montgomerie finds the annual money race such a motivating factor. He is unique in never having taken a backward step on the order of merit in his 11 seasons on tour.

As you would expect, and reasonably enough, the 35-year-old Scot rejects the notion that sight of the same man being crowned Europe's No 1 - in a season when that was well down his list of priorities and when he has been far from his best at times - shows up a weakness in the strength of the tour.

"It's getting closer," he said. "It didn't come down to the last putt like it did against Sam Torrance in 1995 but at the same time the standard is improving, as I have said many times before. And I have had to improve along with it.

"There are a lot of players coming through. I played with [Andrew] Coltart today and he has really, really improved, and I'm looking forward to playing in the World Cup with him in Auckland. It is always nice to see new players coming though who are ambitious and performing well, but to still be top of the tree.

"Ever since 4 January, when I won the Andersen Consulting [World Championship], it was always going to be a great year. Winning the Volvo PGA was super for me and the two wins later on were great. I was in the position coming in here as the No 1 on the rankings and no-one wants to be No 2. But it wasn't that I wanted to be No 1 so much as the fact that someone else wanted to be No 1. That's what kept me going.

"Although I've had a slight hiccup during the year, I feel I am improving. My course management is better and I am mentally tougher than ever before."

That is certainly the case on his domestic circuit, where he clearly feels completely at ease. His performance at Montecastillo was similar to his victory in the PGA at Wentworth in that although he was not on best form from tee to green, he holed the putts that needed holing by sheer willpower.

Once renowned for dropping shots at the last through lack of concentration, Montgomerie scored birdies at the 18th on each of the first three days last week. The one on Saturday provoked one of the most surreal moments in the history of sporting press conferences, in the first 10 minutes of which Monty just repeated the phrase: "A bloody good effort, that."

But on the world stage it is a different story. Montgomerie spent two days with his chin inches from the ground as he missed the cut at the Players' Championship, was hounded by spectators at the US Open, missed the cut - again - at the Open and collapsed miserably on the weekend at the US PGA event.

"Hopefully, I haven't played my best yet," he said. "Hopefully, there are situations in which I can improve and compete at certain levels. I'd like to get to the stage of winning more around the world."

Westwood, too, for all his laid-back image, may be prone to overreaching in the bigger tournaments, but that humbling quadruple-bogey seven at the 14th on Sunday cannot detract from a superlative year. No one in world golf can match his eight victories in eight different countries in the last 12 months.

At 25, Westwood has already shown the Montgomerie-like ability to absorb setbacks and keep moving in the right direction. After years of players impressing on their Ryder Cup debuts and then disappearing, four of the five rookies from Valderrama - Westwood, Clarke, Thomas Bjorn, when he can stay fit, and Jesper Parnevik, third at the US Tour Championship but who will play more in Europe next season - have enhanced their reputations a year on.

But with the European Tour still in transition, Mark James is likely to lead the least experienced European team for two decades to Brookline next September. James will look for the continued progress of the likes of Sweden's Patrik Sjoland and Coltart, who is pulled on by the friendly rivalry with Westwood, Clarke and Paul McGinley in the Andrew Chandler management stable. Both Sjoland and Coltart achieved their maiden wins and went on to finish in the Top 10 of the order of merit for the first time.

There might even be a place for Sergio Garcia, the best young player to emerge since Olazabal, who turns pro after the US Masters, or Justin Rose, who can prove he is Kipling's sort of man by putting behind him his Open triumph and the disaster of his professional debut by emerging from the Qualifying School later this month with his tour card.

SEASON'S AWARDS

BEST ROUNDS OF THE YEAR

Darren Clarke's closing 63 at Montecastillo, the lowest final round of the season to win and when only victory would give him a chance of winning the money list; Justin Rose's 66 in the worst of the weather on the second day of the Open at Royal Birkdale. It tied the Open record for an amateur held by Frank Stranahan and Tiger Woods, and was two shots better than the best of the rest - the eventual champion, Mark O'Meara.

SHOT OF THE YEAR (WORTH $1M)

Colin Montgomerie's three-iron from 223 yards over water to 10ft at the final hole at Grayhawk, Arizona to beat Davis Love in the final of the Andersen Consulting World Championship in January.

SHOT OF THE YEAR (WORTH NOTHING)

Justin Rose's last as an amateur, a 45-yard pitch from the rough over the bunkers at the 72nd at Royal Birkdale, into the hole, to cause the biggest roar of the year.

SURPRISES OF THE YEAR

The 17-year-old Rose finishing equal fourth in the Open, the best performance by an amateur for 45 years; the 18-year-old professional Rose not making the cut in any of his seven starts on the European Tour.

WORST DEBUT OF THE YEAR

Ignacio Garrido at the US Masters. His first round 85 began with a topped drive off the first tee which did not carry as far as the ceremonial opener by 96-year-old Gene Sarazen.

COMEBACKS OF THE YEAR

Tiger Woods from eight shots behind with a round to play at the Johnnie Walker Classic in Thailand. A closing 65 put him in a play-off with Ernie Els which he won at the second extra hole; David Carter, from undergoing emergency brain surgery in Dubai in February 1997 to winning the Irish Open in July.

ANTICLIMAXES OF THE YEAR

Mathias Gronberg winning the European Open by 10 strokes; Mark James being announced as the European Ryder Cup captain.

WORST TIMEKEEPER OF THE YEAR

Lee Westwood won twice in the weeks before major championships and, despite five worldwide victories, has not won the European Tour's player of the month award. Even his back-to-back double straddled May and June.

FINAL 1998 EUROPEAN ORDER OF MERIT AND LATEST 1999 RYDER CUP STANDINGS

Name Earnings

1 C Montgomerie pounds 993,077

2 D Clarke pounds 902,867

3 L Westwood pounds 814,386

4 M A Jimenez (Sp) pounds 518,819

5 P Sjoland (Swe) pounds 500,136

5 T Bjorn (Den) pounds 470,798

7 J M Olazabal (Sp) pounds 449,132

8 E Els (SA) pounds 433,884

9 A Coltart pounds 388,816

10 M Gronberg (Swe) pounds 358,779

11 S Leaney (Aus) pounds 310,643

12 P Baker pounds 307,163

13 S Struver (Ger) pounds 293,208

14 S Torrance pounds 286,807

15 P Price pounds 283,885

16 S Allan (Aus) pounds 267,743

17 R Karlsson (Swe) pounds 267,285

18 B Langer (Ger) pounds 262,347

19 D Carter pounds 244,424

20 I Woosnam pounds 237,570

21 E Romero (Arg) pounds 234,148

22 R Claydon pounds 233,913

23 J Sandelin (Swe) pounds 231,375

24 C Rocca (It) pounds 220,759

25 G Chalmers (Aus) pounds 220,672

26 J van de Velde (Fr) pounds 214,163

27 G Turner (NZ) pounds 210,977

28 G Orr pounds 209,516

29 P Harrington pounds 208,013

30 P McGinlay pounds 201,970

31 S Luna (Sp) pounds 201,624

32 D Howell pounds 199,040

33 R Goosen (SA) pounds 191,249

34 A Cejka (Ger) pounds 184,673

35 P Broadhurst pounds 181,839

36 P O'Malley (Aus) pounds 172,448

37 S Webster pounds 170,871

38 P Mitchell pounds 167,536

39 G Brand Jr. pounds 167,500

40 I Garrido (Sp) pounds 166,866

41 C Hainline (US) pounds 165,792

42 P Fulke (Swe) pounds 160,418

43 J Spence pounds 158,612

44 R Allenby (Aus) pounds 152,413

45 A Cabrera (Arg) pounds 150,792

46 T Gogele (Ger) pounds 150,041

47 K Tomori (Japan) pounds 149,789

48 D Gilford pounds 149,569

49 M Florioli (It) pounds 137,384

50 V Phillips pounds 136,768

51 P Lonard (Aus) pounds 136,453

52 I Garbutt pounds 133,991

53 M Roe pounds 126,149

54 P Quirici (Swit) pounds 124,731

55 P-U Johansson (Swe) pounds 123,206

56 O Karlsson (Swe) pounds 122,501

57 R Wessels (SA) pounds 121,453

58 M James pounds 121,351

59 M Lanner (Swe) pounds 113,023

60 T Johnstone (Zim) pounds 111,268

61 M Hallberg (Swe) pounds 111,095

62 P Lawrie pounds 107,099

63 R Russell pounds 102,276

64 P Walton pounds 101,465

65 J Payne pounds 100,296

66 J Coceres (Arg) pounds 96,957

67 J Haeggman (Swe) pounds 93,989

68 T Henderson pounds 93,964

69 T Levet (Fr) pounds 93,674

70 D Edlund (Swe) pounds 91,803

71 M Jonzon (Swe) pounds 91,510

72 B May (US) pounds 91,342

73 D Robertson pounds 90,062

74 J Rivero (Sp) pounds 89,526

75 F Jacobson (Swe) pounds 88,440

76 P Senior (Aus) pounds 87,764

77 D Cooper pounds 87,342

78 A Sherbourne pounds 86,548

79 B Davis pounds 82,654

80 M Mouland pounds 82,214

81 M Campbell (NZ) pounds 81,797

82 N Faldo pounds 78,178

83 A Beal pounds 77,195

84 M Long (NZ) pounds 77,136

85 A Oldcorn pounds 75,549

86 J Lomas pounds 75,466

87 M Farry (Fr) pounds 74,845

88 R Jacquelin (Fr) pounds 74,844

89 G Owen pounds 73,940

90 A Wall pounds 73,494

91 S Tinning (Den) pounds 72,153

92 F Tarnaud (Fr) pounds 70,778

93 O Edmond (Fr) pounds 69,269

94 G Evans pounds 67,767

95 P Eales pounds 65,708

96 D Chopra (Swe) pounds 65,700

97 P Haugsrud (Nor) pounds 64,953

98 M Davis pounds 63,779

99 R Muntz (Neth) pounds 63,583

100 R Chapman pounds 63,312

101 R Davis (Aus) pounds 63,158

102 E Darcy pounds 62,571

103 J McHenry pounds 61,396

104 J M Singh (Ind) pounds 59,873

105 S Field pounds 58,875

106 P Affleck pounds 58,809

107 D Hospital (Sp) pounds 58,468

108 S Ballesteros (Sp) pounds 58,068

109 F Cea (Sp) pounds 56,951

110 B Lane pounds 56,803

111 S Grappasonni (It) pounds 56,705

112 M Tunnicliff pounds 55,257

113 M MacKenzie pounds 53,572

114 D Smyth pounds 53,530

115 S Kjeldsen (Den) pounds 52,847

116 T Gillis (US) pounds 52,813

117 M Goggin (Aus) pounds 52,600

118 I Pyman pounds 52,367

119 K Erikkson (Swe) pounds 51,923

120 M Reale (It) pounds 51,464

121 R Boxall pounds 49,008

122 C Whitelaw (SA) pounds 46,631

123 S Scahill (NZ) pounds 45,889

124 W Riley (Aus) pounds 42,904

125 D Lynn pounds 42,700

126 C Suneson (Sp) pounds 42,684

127 G Nicklaus (US) pounds 42,064

128 J Bickerton pounds 40,419

129 S Richardson pounds 38,129

130 R Drummond pounds 36,935

131 J Remesy (Fr) pounds 36,478

132 J Wade (Aus) pounds 36,272

133 A Clapp pounds 35,674

134 W Westner (SA) pounds 35,180

135 J Townsend (US) pounds 34,374

136 P Linhart (Sp) pounds 33,518

137 A Forsbrand (Swe) pounds 33,244

138 S Alker (NZ) pounds 32,693

139 A Hunter pounds 31,583

130 P Hedblom (Swe) pounds 31,571

141 A Kankkonen (Fin) pounds 31,085

132 T Dunlap (US) pounds 30,724

133 M Gortana (It) pounds 30,221

134 H P Thul (Ger) pounds 27,542

135 N Henning (SA) pounds 27,307

136 C Watts pounds 27,174

137 R Coles pounds 24,434

138 I Giner (Sp) pounds 24,294

139 K Storgaard (Den) pounds 23,683

130 K Brink (Swe) pounds 23,325

131 D Borrego (Sp) pounds 22,169

132 E Canonica (It) pounds 20,201

153 G Hutcheon pounds 19,170

154 R McFarlane pounds 18,628

155 A Sandywell pounds 18,172

156 N Vanhootegem (Bel) pounds 17,787

157 B Dredge pounds 17,325

158 R Burns pounds 16,563

159 H Clark pounds 16,431

160 S Cage pounds 16,286

161 J Robson pounds 15,967

162 L W Zhang (China) pounds 15,829

163 S Bennett pounds 15,320

164 N Joakimides (Fr) pounds 15,096

165 R Green (Aus) pounds 14,825

166 R J Derksen (Neth) pounds 14,645

167 R Lee pounds 14,562

168 C O'Connor Jr pounds 14,440

169 C van der Velde (Neth) pounds 14,259

170 F He (Swe) pounds 14,089

EUROPEAN RYDER CUP STANDINGS

Name Points

1 C Montgomerie 381,020

2 D Clarke 235,090

3 M A Jimenez (Sp) 179,510

4 S Struver (Ger) 150,525

5 L Westwood 140,001

6 R Karlsson (Swe) 139,030

7 A Coltart 116,566

8 J Sandelin (Swe) 110,324

9 P Sjoland (Swe) 101,830

10 P Fulke (Swe) 77,330

11 G Brand Jr 76,723

12 A Cejka (Ger) 70,221

13 P-U Johansson(Swe) 69,785

14 S Torrance 67,487

15 C Rocca (It) 63,631

16 S Webster 59,000

17 J Van de Velde (Fr) 57,923

18 F Jacobson (Swe) 55,211

19 P Baker 53,546

20 P McGinley 52,680

(Top 10 on 31 August 1999 qualify; the captain, Mark James, then adds two wild cards.)

(GB or Irl unless stated)

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN OF 1998 EUROPEAN TOUR

DRIVING ACCURACY

(The frequency, expressed as a percentage, of the player hitting the fairway on par fours and par fives.)

Name Frequency

1 P Fulke (Swe) 76.1

2= D Gilford 74.2

2= M Reale (It) 74.2

2= A Hunter 74.2

5 M A Jimenez (Sp) 74.0

5= S Bennett 74.0

7 C Montgomerie 72.9

7= V Phillips 72.9

9 P Eales 72.4

10= P Linhart (Sp) 71.9

10= A Oldcorn 71.9

12 L Westwood 71.7

DRIVING DISTANCE

Name Metres

1 E Canonica (It) 295.8

2 A Cabrera (Arg) 288.8

3 S Webster 283.1

4 E Els (SA) 282.5

5 C Suneson (Sp) 282.2

6 P Quirici (Swit) 280.3

7 D Clarke 279.3

8 D Thomson 278.5

8= C Montgomerie 278.5

10 C Whitelaw (SA) 278.4

11 S Luna (Sp) 278.3

12 T Henderson 278.0

GREENS IN REGULATION

(The number of shots a player should take to reach the putting surface on any given hole: one for par threes, two for par fours and three for par fives. A player scores one GIR for each hole played that meets or beats the criteria. The GIR Index is the number of Greens in Regulation achieved divided by the number of holes played.)

Name GIR

1 A Cejka (Ger) 78.5

2 C Montgomerie 76.2

3 P Baker 75.7

3= D Clarke 75.7

5 M A Jimenez(Sp) 75.3

6 P O'Malley (Aus) 74.9

6= E Els (SA) 74.9

8 I Garbutt 74.8

9 B May (US) 74.5

10 A Coltart 74.3

PUTTS PER ROUND

Name Putts

1 S Ballesteros (Sp) 27.9

2 J Townsend (US) 28.4

3 R Claydon 28.5

4 P Harrington 28.6

4= A Beal 28.6

6= P Lawrie 28.8

6= P Broadhurst 28.8

6= D Chopra (Swe) 28.8

9= R Karlsson (Swe) 28.9

9= G Turner (NZ) 28.9

9= G Brand Jnr 28.9

12 G Chalmers (Aus) 29.0

STROKE AVERAGE

(Average number of strokes per round.)

1 D Clarke 69.45

2 C Montgomerie 69.66

3 L Westwood 69.85

4 E Els (SA) 69.89

5 J M Olazabal (Sp) 70.25

6 B Langer (Ger) 70.50

7 M A Jimenez (Sp) 70.57

8 P Sjoland (Swe) 70.59

9 T Bjorn (Den) 70.64

10 G Turner (NZ) 70.67

11 S Torrance 70.80

12 A Coltart 70.81

SAND SAVES

(Achieved by getting up-and-down in two from a green-side bunker. Expressed as a percentage of the number of sand saves achieved divided by the number of greenside bunkers visited. Green-side bunker defined as being within 10 yards of green.)

1 T Johnstone (Zim) 81.6

2 P Walton 77.5

3 J Haeggman (Swe) 77.3

4 P-U Johannson (Swe) 75.6

5 O Karlsson (Swe) 74.2

6 J Bickerton 72.9

7 S Bennett 72.0

8 B Langer (Ger) 71.4

8= I Garrido (Sp) 71.4

10 S Allan (Aus) 70.5

11 E Els (SA) 69.2

12 A Cabrera (Arg) 69.0

(GB or Irl unless stated)

Comments