Montgomerie masters the world

Scot plays superbly to deny O'Meara chance of retaining title of leading matchplay exponent

COLIN MONTGOMERIE capped a superlative three days of golf over the West Course with victory for first time in the Cisco World Match Play Championship. Montgomerie, who defeated the holder, Mark O'Meara, 3 and 2 in yesterday's final, was 29 under par for his 99 holes, which contained only four bogeys.

COLIN MONTGOMERIE capped a superlative three days of golf over the West Course with victory for first time in the Cisco World Match Play Championship. Montgomerie, who defeated the holder, Mark O'Meara, 3 and 2 in yesterday's final, was 29 under par for his 99 holes, which contained only four bogeys.

Although not an Order of Merit event, this was Montgomerie's sixth win in his last 14 events in Europe, equalling the modern record of Seve Ballesteros and Nick Faldo. Montgomerie won £170,000 yesterday; in 19 European tour-sanctioned events, he is averaging over £75,000 a tournament.

"This is special," said Montgomerie, who won for the fourth time in Britain this season and the second at Wentworth. "There is the word 'world' in the title and to be champion of anything with the word 'world' in it means a lot to me. Unfortunately, I can't see many other non-major winners on the role of honour. I'd like to change that."

The performance from the Scot left O'Meara, who at the age of 41 last year won the Open and the Masters, in no doubt of Montgomerie's major credentials. "Colin is going to win a major and I see no reason why he couldn't do it within the next year," O'Meara said.

O'Meara, whose painful neck was replaced with a stiff neck, came back from four down in the final against Tiger Woods last year, but could not mount such a recovery this time. "I knew I had to come out smoking in the afternoon but Colin is a tremendous competitor and played smart, composed golf."

Montgomerie said: "I knew I was never far enough ahead against someone who can play and putt like Mark can. I lost in the final to Ernie Els in 1994 so it was nice to get back into the final and be victorious."

The Scot began in breathtaking fashion, hitting a six-iron to four feet at the first. When O'Meara failed to get up and down for a par, he was not required to putt. He would probably have holed it anyway, given that he went on to single-putt the next five greens. Only one of those was a long one, from over 40 feet at the sixth for his fourth birdie.

Three up, Monty misjudged the pace of the seventh green, three-putting for only his third bogey of the week. He won the 10th with a par and birdied the next three to go five up.

It was the wobble at the last two that gave O'Meara hope. Monty could not match the American's birdie at the 17th and was then unfortunate at the 18th. Both missed the fairway, but Monty was only just off in thick rough while O'Meara was 20 yards wide but had a good lie. He took advantage by hitting a terrific four-wood approach to two feet and when Monty, who was credited with an approximate 66, only found the green in four, he conceded the hole.

One of the ingredients for such marvellous scoring all week - the overall tally of 165 under par beat the previous record from 1989 by three strokes - along with the fine weather and an immaculately conditioned course, was the absence of any breeze. Although the wind got up yesterday afternoon to make matters more interesting, Montgomerie, after briefly being pegged back to two up and twice going four up for a hole, maintained his three up advantage through turn.

O'Meara, however, was always likely to come good on the greens at some point and chose the back nine to do it. He holed from seven feet for a half on the 10th and from double that, after Monty had hit his bunker shot stiff, to win the 11th.

Two holes later Montgomerie made a rare long game mistake, duffing his five-iron approach well short of the green. But he got up and down for a four, as O'Meara did from a bunker. The 14th was halved in pars and then Montgomerie's three-iron second at the next left him a 12-footer birdie putt. Crucially, O'Meara had to putt first from just outside. "Mark gave me a great line. It broke just a little more than he thought," Monty admitted.

He missed the green at the 16th, but O'Meara found a bunker and pushed his recovery 14 feet past. Inevitably, he holed the one back to force Montgomerie to hole out from three feet for the victory. "In matchplay you always have to expect the worst," he said. It is hoped that the same will not be true of his visit to the dentist this morning.

CISCO WORLD MATCH PLAY CHAMPIONSHIP (Wentworth, Surrey): C Montgomerie (GB) bt M O'Meara (US) 3 and 2.

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