As Paul McGinley was beaming the smile of the ecstatic after winning his first trophy in more than four years here last night, Colin Montgomerie was flashing the grin of the deeply relieved after collecting his first Order of Merit title in six years.
On the evidence of yesterday's performance alone, it would be easy to suggest that there was little merit in the Scotsman's victory, and even less order, as he blew a three-shot lead with 12 holes remaining before eventually finishing in a tie for third, three behind the Dubliner, at 10-under, and Sergio Garcia, at 8-under.
But that would be to ignore everything that had gone before - in the first three days of this Volvo Masters and indeed the first 10 months of this year. There were times here that his golf was simply phenomenal, especially considering the pressure he was under to repel Michael Campbell. In the event, the Kiwi finished four shots and well over £200,000 in arrears and it was not being disrespectful to either this season-ending spectacular or its winner when Montgomerie declared: "I won my tournament here this week."
True, watching him stumble up the final fairway, struggling just to make par in a 74 that was ugliness in numbers, did remind fans of the golfing equivalent of Jim Peters, but that is surely because it has been a marathon and not only on the course. In his "private" life, he has had the constant stress of a messy divorce to handle, not to mention the "Jakartagate" scandal when "cheating" accusations threatened his reputation. The locker-room mutterings will continue a while yet, but only the stupidly bitter will deny the courage he showed in coming back from a fall to 83 in the world rankings to earn £1.9m and the No 1 mantle in Europe. "You know I already had seven of these little things," he said, looking down at the Harry Vardon Trophy. "So I didn't particular need it. I just wanted it."
And boy how much so, as he proved with an opening 67 and a second-round 66 that effectively killed off Campbell. "I came here early with my sports psychologist," he revealed. "This week was all about not showing any weakness and walking tall."
It has been a similar story for McGinley, who has at last raised his "5ft 7 1/ 2in" frame to the long-deserved status of champion. Self-belief, as always, has been the secret, as well as a swing his coach, Bob Torrance, believes was nigh on technically perfect. It sure needed to be after his first seven holes of his first round when a triple and double bogey looked to have wrecked his challenge before it had really started. Tied for 40th after the first round, in a 55-strong field, the man who held the winning putt in the 2001 Ryder Cup had no chance. "I was happy to come off with a 74 then," said the 38-year-old, revelling in only his fourth European Tour success. "I bogeyed the first on Friday but from there went 53 holes without a bogey. That's a bloody long time around this course."
Any number of would-be victors here were testifying to that after a finale when only McGinley and Luke Donald moved forwards with any notable conviction, the latter recording the round of the week, a blemish-free 64, to join Montgomerie and Jose Maria Olazabal in third. Garcia was probably the most disappointed as the local fans went home begrudging their favourite's erratic 73, while tipping their sombreros to the winner's controlled 67.
It was best summed up at the 17th, a par-five that can gobble up a lead in an instant, but one which McGinley humbled with a nerveless sand-wedge over the lake to within six feet. And so began an Irish party that included Eddie Jordan, the former F1 team owner, who helped McGinley get over last month's World Match Play final defeat. "That hit me as hard as I've ever been hit," he said, £450,000 the richer. "What pleases me most is the size of this title. I always knew I had a big one in me. Is it better than the Ryder Cup putt? Well it's different. That was for everybody. This was selfish. This was only for Paul McGinley."
* European Tour chief George O'Grady described the concept of women playing in men's golf events as a gimmick yesterday. "We are not totally against ladies playing by invitation, we don't see much point in it," O'Grady said. "It's just a gimmick. It's not something we are actively promoting."Reuse content