Four weeks ago Colin Montgomerie lost to a golfer ranked 1,240th in the world. Seve Ballesteros, Monty's opposing captain in the Seve Trophy, dragged the Scot's long game down to his own pitiful level and then beat him into submission with sublime chipping and putting.
Yesterday in the final round of the Deutsche Bank-SAP Open here, Montgomerie, despite almost pulling out due to his back injury, took the best player in the world to the third extra hole before finally conceding defeat to Tiger Woods.
Playing the 18th for the third additional time, Monty pushed his second from a fairway bunker into the pond on the right of the green. Woods won the hole with a par to a double bogey to take the title, which incorporates the Tournament Players Championship of Europe, for the third time in four years.
It was a sad end to a gripping contest between the Masters champion, who won for the third time this season, and the former European No 1 who has dropped to 29th in the world but here was more like his old self, tying Woods on 20 under par. But it was entirely in keeping with their play-off records, Woods improving to nine wins from 11 attempts, Montgomerie now having lost seven out of eight.
In what was almost a private matchplay contest, Woods caught the Scot with a 68 to a 69, while Justin Rose had to settle for third place. Six behind early in the round, the 21-year-old Englishman birdied two of the last three holes, making a brilliant save at the last, and only missed out on the play-off by a stroke when Woods and Monty also got up and down at the 18th.
Woods was virtually blemish-free all day without having the greatest luck on the greens. Montgomerie got away with the odd mistake, especially at the last where he overshot the green but hit the scoreboard full on. He chipped dead, while Woods, having missed his first green of the day, chipped eight feet past.
There was no doubt that putt was going in but when they first returned to the 18th in extra time, his 12-footer for birdie lipped out. At the second play-off hole, both went back right, chipped and putted for par.
"I was very close to pulling out this morning and in the play-off my back was getting very sore," Montgomerie said. "In the circumstances I'm very proud of what I did. At the start I thought 80 would be reasonable. In the end the best man won." Woods said: "Even though Colin was not feeling his best he hung in there like a true champion. It was a great battle and a lot of fun."
The world No 1 missed only five greens for the week and had only two holes over par out of 75. "My ball-striking was pretty good all week. I played well today and to win again in Germany is a great feeling."
The start was explosive before the battle of attrition began. Montgomerie birdied the first three holes. After the second he was three ahead. Woods eagled the third, holing from 18 feet, but that was his only deviation from par on the front nine as the putts otherwise refused to drop.
Monty pushed his tee shot at the short fourth into sand. His recovery did not make the green and he took two more to get down to drop his first shot. The overnight margin of one stroke was re-established for the rest of the outward half.
Woods drew level by holing from 12 feet at the 10th. The 12th was halved in birdie-fours but Montgomerie three-putted the short 13th, missing from 10 feet for par, to fall behind for the first time. Two holes later, however, Monty did hole for birdie from the same distance to get back level.
Rose broke his sequence of winning after missing the cut, as he had done three times already this season, but was delighted to stay ahead of his playing partner, Greg Owen, as both scored 67s. Rose did not get off to the best start, failing to birdie either of the first two par-fives and bogeying the second when he drove into the stream on the right.
Owen, the 30-year-old from Mansfield, should have eagled the first – the ball circled the hole – but did eagle the third and was five under for the first five holes. He was out in 31 but could not keep the pace going on the inward half as Rose came home in 32.
Deutsche Bank-SAP Open (Heidelberg) Leading final scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 268 T Woods 69 67 64 68, C Montgomerie 66 68 65 69 (Woods won at 3rd play-off hole). 269 J Rose 71 65 66 67. 271 G Owen 68 68 68 67. 273 R Gonzalez (Arg) 71 67 67 68. 275 T Bjorn (Den) 73 65 71 66, I Woosnam 68 67 73 67, M Olander (Swe) 69 69 69 68. 276 A Hansen (Den) 72 68 71 65, A Cabrera (Arg) 69 69 70 68, R Green (Aus) 68 67 70 71. 277 B Dredge 70 69 70 68, P Harrington 71 70 66 70, S Luna (Sp) 72 70 65 70, P Fulke (Swe) 69 70 66 72. Selected: 278 Michael Campbell (Nz) 71 72 69 66, D Clarke 67 68 73 70, Robert Karlsson (Swe) 71 69 67 71, Alex Cejka (Ger) 64 70 71 73.