Monty strides on through the wet - Golf - Sport - The Independent

Monty strides on through the wet

World Matchplay: Inclement weather adds mental strain to the physical demands

For only the third time in the history of the Cisco World Match Play, the tournament is unlikely to finish on time. The first item on the order of business this morning will be to resume the two 36-hole semi-finals, with the final starting sometime this afternoon and completed tomrrow morning.

For only the third time in the history of the Cisco World Match Play, the tournament is unlikely to finish on time. The first item on the order of business this morning will be to resume the two 36-hole semi-finals, with the final starting sometime this afternoon and completed tomrrow morning.

Colin Montgomerie and Vijay Singh were a minute away from teeing off at 9.15am when play was suspended due to torrential rain. There has been rain on each of the last 30 days at Wentworth and the saturate course did not allow play until 3.45pm.

Already a physically demanding tournament, the delays add to the mental strain. Mongomerie, fitter and slimmer than when he won here a year ago, arrived at the course at 7.30am but when he finally stepped on to the first tee the Scot picked up impressively where he left off with his 15-under-par performnce against Padraig Harrington on Friday.

His three-wood approach to the first finished 12 feet from the hole and he made the putt to go one-up. He went further ahead when Singh missed the green at the second and reachd the turn in 31, four under par, to be three-up. Singh had to make birdies at the sixth and seventh just to halve the holes. Ernie Els, the three-time winner, was all square with Lee Westwood after eight holes.

That his semi-final opponent was Singh, the Masters champion, rather than Darren Clarke, the Andersen Consulting Matchplay champion, did not surprise Montgomerie. Clarke may have beaten the 108th ranked player in the world in the first round but the effort expended was considerable as Nick Faldo extended the match to the 40th hole and into a second day.

"I'm sure his match against Nick took a lot out of Darren, mentally and physically," Montgomrie said. "Nick is a hell of a competitor still. I wasn't surprised to see him do so well."

Montgomerie got first-hand experience of that when they were paired in the Ryder Cup at The Belfry in 1993 and at Oak Hill in '95 when they earned three and a half points together from seven matches. "I understand what he's like in matchplay," Monty added, "so it wasn't surprising at all how close he ran Darren."

Faldo's run of 11 successive appearances in the Ryder Cup came to an end at Valderrama, where he became the highest point scorer in the event's history. The former world No 1 recognised that his form last year did not merit a place at Brookline but that his efforts in trying to make the team were never acknowledged was at the root of his dispute with Mark James, a row which rumbled on over the summer.

Montgomerie refuted the suggestion that Faldo had no further part to play in the Ryder Cup, either as player or captain.

"The Ryder Cup will be a weaker place without Nick Faldo, even next time," he said. "It was last time and it will be again. He's a very respected figure and one figure we greatly missed in the 1999 Ryder Cup."

Faldo needs to prove his form, however, by actually qualifying for next September's match at The Belfry. To do that he needs to get back to contending for titles and competing on the big stages. His invitation to Wentworth, therefore, was a godsend and he set out to make the most of it. By lunchtime he was three-up on Clarke. Some of his approach play was back to his best but in the afternoon he slipped up on the greens to let Clarke back in.

Yet on Friday, shortly after dawn, Faldo twice made vital putts only for Clarke's eagle at the 18th to clinch the victory. No match has lasted longer in the 36-year history of the tournament. "I could see Nick is definitely playing a lot better," Clarke said. "It was a terrific match, maybe not quality-wise but in terms of matchplay. Nick has been such a great player for so long, the way he kept in there was exactly what I expected."

As always, Faldo could not wait to analyse his performance on video. "I would like to see a few shots on video as the feedback has been good this week," Faldo said. "I'm really pleased the swing held up under pressure. I am hitting draws and fades when I want to. It was good to play under really good pressure again but I've got to improve my short game and I've just got to gain another tiny 30 yards. That's the winter project. He was getting 30 yards on me and that made all the difference.

"It is no fun when you are out of it," added the 43-year-old who has not won for over three years. "I was looking forward to the challenge and knew I would give someone a good game. It's a shame but I lost to an eagle and you can't argue wit that. I didn't want to give in, I wanted to win and the crowd were all pulling for me. It was a good feeling."

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