European Tour tells Evans to apologise for Montgomerie accusations

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The Independent Online

The can of worms that Gary Evans opened up here on Saturday night with his onslaught against Colin Montgomerie and "Jakartagate" was transformed into a can of the most potent vipers yesterday as the European Tour decided to set about proving that attack is the best form of defence.

The can of worms that Gary Evans opened up here on Saturday night with his onslaught against Colin Montgomerie and "Jakartagate" was transformed into a can of the most potent vipers yesterday as the European Tour decided to set about proving that attack is the best form of defence.

In quite unprecedented scenes, George O'Grady, the Tour's chief executive, went on the gentlemen's equivalent of the warpath when demanding that Evans apologise for comments suggesting that Montgomerie should have been banned for the "wrong drop" in the Indonesia Open in March that has long been infamous.

Evans, a well-known Tour professional for some 14 years, became the first to break the wall of silence that has served as some sort of protection for Montgomerie during a whispering campaign now destined to forever tarnish a glittering career, when marching into the media centre, unprovoked, and declaring that "there has been smoke around Monty before".

The 36-year-old also claimed that "98 per cent of players" were unhappy that Montgomerie had been cleared by the players tournament committee and believed that a disciplinary panel should be introduced, to fine or ban miscreants whose misdemeanours have come to light after the tournament has finished.

O'Grady, visibly furious that a conference to commend the sponsors of the Tour's flagship event had been so besmirched, described Evans's outburst as "enormously disrespectful". "I expect him to apologise," he said, all but implying that Evans would be punished if he refused to do so for breaking the Tour's "code of behaviour". As Evans is not expected to say sorry - either to Montgomerie or, indeed, to the tournament committee - a self-governing body made up of his fellow players - and, as he is known to have the sympathy of a large percentage of his colleagues, the matter is set to run and run.

Yesterday, the 41-year-old made a valiant attempt to finish high enough in the PGA Championship to earn himself an automatic place in next month's US Open - his joint 11th place, after a stirring 66, left him on the cusp - before facing the press with tears in his eyes. "I am extremely hurt," he said. "I agree with everything George O'Grady said. No I won't be speaking to Gary Evans. I thought the matter was dead and buried when a statement came out from the committee at the Forest Of Arden."

The statement, that was released on the eve of the British Masters a fortnight ago after a meeting in which passions ran high, said that the committee, of which Montgomerie is one of the 14 members, had expressed its "satisfaction" about the incident at 14th hole of the Cengkareng Golf Club.

To recap, when play was suspended due to a lightning storm, instead of marking the ball, as is the standard practice, Montgomerie simply walked off leaving the ball there. On returning the next morning, Montgomerie discovered it had gone. After consulting his partners, Montgomerie dropped another ball, without penalty, but television showed he did so in a spot approximately 18 inches from its original position, affording him a much easier shot in the process.

On seeing the tapes a few weeks later, and after discovering that Soren Kjeldsen, a Danish professional, had made an official complaint, Montgomerie admitted that he too was "concerned" by what he'd witnessed and had donated the £24,000 he earned for coming fourth to charity. As the referee in charge of the Indonesian Open did not take any action at the time, Montgomerie was not punished for an error he has always maintained was "unwitting". That did not begin to assuage Evans and other locker room whisperers and they vowed to raise the matter again during last week's annual players' meeting at Wentworth. But, in a move designed to snuff out any more bad publicity, O'Grady delivered an impassioned speech calling on the players to show faith in the decision of the committee. That seemed to have silenced the dissent once and for all. And then Evans spoke up.

As the professionals digested the stunning scenes here yesterday, no-one was prepared to add their voice to the subject, not least because of the aforementioned "code of behaviour". One of the Tour's many edicts is that "public comments that a member (player) knows, or should reasonably know, will harm the reputation or interests of a tournament sponsor, promoter, player, the European tour or its officials are prohibited".

Most feel that Evans has broken that particular commandment spectacularly. But there was also a palpable sense that it would be extremely ironic if somebody else faced the rap for what was undeniably Montgomerie's crime.

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