All change as Monty ends hunt for trophy

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It was a typical Colin Montgomerie victory here in the Irish Open at Fota Island, but it was not achieved by a typical Colin Montgomerie.

The Scot himself greeted it as the most significant victory of his career, because he had not won for such a long time and, even more significantly, because it represented success for a man who had left behind the selfishness of an earlier life.

Montgomerie now admits that he has been too introverted about both his golf and life. It was a trait which was making destructive inroads into his marriage. "I think I am a lot calmer than I used to be on and off the course," he said yesterday. "I have had an awfully good look at myself over the last eight months of my life. I saw a lot of errors, but I think I am a better person than I was. That helps in the golf course environment as well. I feel I can go forward now.

"I think I wanted it too much in the past. Success brought the need to have success and I was on a conveyor belt I could not get off. I got off it and I think I turned it round. I have changed things in my life and I am a much better person for it. I have a different attitude towards the game and life.

"That means more to me, winning the way I am now. Not looking at Orders of Merit sheets every day. It all got too much. Winning the way I did is a better way of doing things."

A final round of 66 gave Montgomerie a total of 266 – 18 under par and the score he predicted would be sufficient after the first round. This 25th European Tour title moves him alongside Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Bernhard Langer as three-time winners of the Irish Open.

It also confirmed to Montgomerie that he can once again be a force in the highest company after a barren section of his career. "Having not won for the longest time since 1991 this is possibly the most important victory of my career," he said. "It's easy when you are on a roll and winning every couple of months, but when you haven't won on the European Tour for 13 months you wonder whether it is ever going to happen again and you put pressure on yourself.

"I have been averaging 27 or 28 putts a round which is about four less than normal. That's 16 shots over the tournament. If I putt like that I have a chance of winning most weeks."

Montgomerie now plays the European Open at the K Club later this week, followed by the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond, while the light of his first major is already twinkling over Royal Lytham.

The only nudge on a serene course yesterday came at the eighth, where he mumbled "no, no, no" as his ball was on its way into a pond. He duffed his first chip and squandered two shots with a six.

If the self-doubt about his cold streak was to kick in that should have been the moment. But he, immediately stamped on that notion with a birdie three at the next.

Four further birdies followed, three of them from around 15ft, and such was Monty's confidence that his two on the 13th was greeted by a celebratory wave of his visor. He later confirmed that he knew he had it won by then.

Padraig Harrington and Darren Clarke inflamed the domestic audience with closing 64s to share second place with Sweden's Niclas Fasth, whose closed with a 63.

IRISH OPEN (Cork) Leading final scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 266 C Montgomerie 63 69 68 66. 271 N Fasth (Swe) 68 71 69 63; P Harrington 67 72 68 64; D Clarke 70 72 65 64. 273 T Bjorn (Den) 66 69 72 66. 274 R Karlsson (Swe) 71 69 67 67; G Emerson 68 70 67 69; A Scott (Aus) 68 69 66 71. 275 S Tinning (Den) 69 68 72 66; I Poulter 69 69 71 66; D Howell 68 70 71 66; B Lane 68 67 72 68; T Levet (Fr) 68 67 72 68; A Coltart 67 71 69 68. 276 I Woosnam 73 69 70 64; S Webster 67 71 72 66; J Rose 70 70 69 67; G Brand Jnr 68 69 71 68; A Wall 67 67 71 71. Selected: 279 P Lawrie 71 66 72 70. 281 C Rocca (It) 70 72 70 69; S Lyle 68 72 70 71.