Montgomerie aims to rectify major mystery

IT REMAINS a mystery but a little over 20 years ago, in 1977 and 1978, the World Match Play produced winners in Graham Marsh and Isao Aoki, who were not then among, and have not since joined, the game's major champions. Colin Montgomerie became the 20th winner in the 36 years of the Wentworth classic and rather than having his name associated with Marsh and Aoki, he would not mind joining the group of players whose major moment followed their World Match Play triumph, including, this decade, Corey Pavin and Vijay Singh.

IT REMAINS a mystery but a little over 20 years ago, in 1977 and 1978, the World Match Play produced winners in Graham Marsh and Isao Aoki, who were not then among, and have not since joined, the game's major champions. Colin Montgomerie became the 20th winner in the 36 years of the Wentworth classic and rather than having his name associated with Marsh and Aoki, he would not mind joining the group of players whose major moment followed their World Match Play triumph, including, this decade, Corey Pavin and Vijay Singh.

Mark O'Meara, who lost his crown to the Scot in Sunday's final, believes it could happen soon. "There is no doubt in my mind that Colin will win a major and there is no reason why it won't happen within the next year," O'Meara said.

"You are looking at a guy who took 17 or 18 years to win one so Colin has plenty of time. He is a great competitor. He knows what he is capable of and does it. He has great hands and he has great desire."

While appreciating O'Meara's words, Montgomerie, 36, for once tried not to build the pressure on himself. "You can never say I will win one," he said. "There are only four. Tiger Woods will win one and I am sure Sergio Garcia will win another, so I'm down to two already. It's not easy. You have got to be there and be fortunate."

O'Meara may have put his finger on why Montgomerie has not already won one when he said: "Sure, when he is out there playing he can see a lot of things going on." He also hears a lot, but then in America, and at a recent major over there and the Ryder Cup at Brookline, there have been a lot of unkind and downright abusive things to hear.

Said O'Meara: "I told Colin that I don't think there is one American player, or fan, who does not respect his ability to play the game. It is unfortunate there have been some situations, but I told him even Jack Nicklaus had people screaming at him when he started to take over from Arnold Palmer."

Montgomerie's decision to restrict his tournaments in America to the three majors and the three other top events may count against him. Though he said of the abuse: "I don't need it, no one needs it," he denies that is the reason.

"I am just not going to play quite so often, period. Not just in the States. I am going to take it easier at the start of the year. It's nothing to do with Brookline because I feel players and spectators alike respect me more after what happened there."

Astonishing is the only word to use concerning Montgomerie ability to continue to impress while not actually attaining the major win he would cherish and other wish for him. He has won six times and earned over £1.5m and should secure a seventh successive Order of Merit title in Spain next month.

"It is not the amount of wins but the way I have played," he added. "I have been right there in most tournaments. To think that my worst finish in Europe is 20th, including the British Open, means I am as consistent as I have ever been.

"There is a lot of pressure in winning an event like this and I can learn from that when I am in a position to win a major."

Although a client of the promoters, Mark McCormack's International Management Group, and thus might be expected to talk the event up, Montgomerie was correct to say the unique feature of the event is its 36-hole format.

"As long as it retains that, it will keep its unique place and remain a world-class event," he said. In contrast, Lee Westwood declined an invitation, saying the event had "lost stature", but then he is a client of a rival management group. Next year, he may not be so inclined to sit at home and watch his rival win.

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