Monty pleads for end to Jakarta furore

How many times can a man say sorry? Colin Montgomerie did so for at least the third time here on the eve of the Wales Open yesterday before making an impassioned plea for a definitive, giant black line to be drawn under the affair that has become known simply as "Jakartagate" on the European Tour.

How many times can a man say sorry? Colin Montgomerie did so for at least the third time here on the eve of the Wales Open yesterday before making an impassioned plea for a definitive, giant black line to be drawn under the affair that has become known simply as "Jakartagate" on the European Tour.

However, as the whispers continued to wend their way from the locker-room in the wake of Gary Evans all but accusing the Scot of being a cheat, this seemed more than a tad hopeful, even though the words of the chairman of the powerful tournament committee had earlier poured a huge bucket of water on the flames threatening to engulf one the game's most glittering careers.

By declaring that Evans - who yesterday pulled out of this week's tournament with a bad back - did not have to apologise for his inflammatory comments on Montgomerie's infamous "wrong drop" in Indonesia, and would not therefore be liable to the fine that the George O'Grady, the European Tour's furious chief executive, hinted would be coming the journeyman's way, Jamie Spence quite cleverly took the sting out of the situation.

"I spoke at length with Gary on Tuesday, he didn't apologise and I didn't expect him to," said Spence, so defusing any of the fall-out that a few fellow professionals of Evans had, off-the-record, promised should the 36-year-old face censure. "It's a free world. I want the members to be able to say what they want, but say it to us or George."

If Evans had indeed marched into the board-room at Wentworth last Saturday, instead of the media room, where, among other things, he declared that "there's been smoke around Monty before" and that "98 per cent" of the pros were not happy that Montgomerie had escaped sanction for replacing his ball in an obviously advantageous position after a weather suspension, then the resulting furore might have been averted.

"The timing of Gary's comments was very poor but I don't think he fully understood the issues involved," Spence said. "I think the players feel we should have taken some action but there is no action to take. Colin broke a rule and the referee at the time agreed he didn't incur a penalty. It's a misconception that he could disqualify himself after the event - he can't. Colin felt it was a nice gesture to donate his prize-money [£24,000] to charity but I don't think he was admitting any guilt. We put ourselves on a high moral ground as golfers and it's difficult to live up to."

At least Montgomerie was trying to yesterday. "I made a mistake and I acknowledge that fact," he said. But he would not go so far as to state that he would have disqualified himself and so hand back the world ranking points that ultimately allowed him to scrape into the world's top 50 in time to qualify for this month's US Open.

John Paramor, the Tour's chief referee, did reveal, however, that he had to tell Montgomerie that the result would stand whatever he did, which suggested that the 41-year-old was indeed considering such a course. "It was not an option," Montgomerie said.

Whether the Tour's rules will ever be altered to allow such a move remains a doubt, although Spence confessed that the Tour will be pressing the Royal and Ancient, the game's rule-makers, to amend their laws in one respect because of this unseemly rumpus. "The biggest mistake Colin made was not marking his ball," he said. "But I find it incredible that in a lightning delay that you don't have to mark it. Now I understand if someone hits a 300-yard drive and there is lightning around you don't want to run down there, but if you are standing next to your ball, our committee feels very strongly this should be a rule of golf."

Unsurprisingly, Montgomerie lent his support to that, before issuing his cry for peace. "Can I just ask one thing more?" he said. "Can we finally, finally draw a line under this and get on with what we all do best?"

No, he did not mean bickering, as Spence signified with one last warning. "This is the end of it for me and the committee," Spence said. "If the players feel they can do better, they can take my job."

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