Scots face uphill fight to qualify

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The Independent Online

Scotland beat England for the first time in six attempts at the Alfred Dunhill Cup here yesterday, but for one horrible moment Colin Montgomerie was worried the No 1 seeds' chances of progressing to the semi-finals might depend on England beating Germany today. "Which is never a good thing," observed the Scottish captain.

Scotland beat England for the first time in six attempts at the Alfred Dunhill Cup here yesterday, but for one horrible moment Colin Montgomerie was worried the No 1 seeds' chances of progressing to the semi-finals might depend on England beating Germany today. "Which is never a good thing," observed the Scottish captain.

As it is, all of Scotland will, against their natural instincts, be hoping at least one Englishman is victorious. Group One, as expected, is proving the tightest pool with Wales, the No 8 seeds, the team in control. After their 2-1 win over Germany, conquerors of Scotland on Thursday, Wales head the table with two wins. Today they can afford to lose 2-1 to Scotland and still qualify for the semi-finals for the first time since 1991. Scotland have to win 3-0 and hope Germany do not beat England by the same score.

The quirky permutations of the final day of group matches in this competition have bemused and delighted in equal proportion over the years, but the beautiful mystery of the proceedings will be lost to the cheap thrill of seeing a few celebrities on the links if the event is changed to a pro-am style tournament next year.

If this is to be the last hurrah of the slide rule then it is just the tiniest bit disappointing, if albeit far clearer for players and spectators alike, that the other groups have thrown up straight deciders for the remaining three places in tomorrow morning's semis.

Spain, the defending champions, play Sweden, South Africa take on New Zealand and Australia play Argentina, who left the Americans with no chance of qualifying by beating them 3-0.

Ireland, who were eliminated after being swept by the two-time winners, South Africa, would have remained alive had Paul McGinley managed to earn a point against Retief Goosen. The match went to the 19th before Goosen's birdie ended Irish hopes. David Frost, with a 66, and Ernie Els, with a 67, produced two of the best rounds of the day.

Roger Chapman's extra-time victory over Gary Orr took Scotland's destiny out of their own hands. Three birdies in a row from the 14th took Chapman into the lead. He dropped a shot at the 17th and, after Orr had holed from 15 feet at the last, had to follow his opponent in to tie. Orr's nine-iron at the first then spun back off the green into the Swilken Burn and Chapman's par was good enough for the win.

It was the first point from six games for a team who do not possess a player ranked in the world top 100. "A few things have been written and said about this England team," Chapman said. "I was totally disgusted by one report in particular. We were pretty fired up as a team last night as a result. We wear our jerseys with pride this week. Scotland are a very strong team and, despite losing, we can all hold our heads up high."

After losing seven of his previous 11 matches in the event and not having broken 70 for three years over the Old Course, including July's Open Championship, Montgomerie's 69 gave him a one-stroke win over Brian Davis. The sole difference between the pair was the Scot's birdie at the last, where he holed a left-to-right putt of 15 feet with two feet of break.

Montgomerie then jetted off to Gleneagles, where last night he addressed 250 chief executives from leading Scottish firms in his role as an unofficial ambassador for Scotland the Brand. It is the sort of thing Monty, playing in his 10th event in 11 weeks, hopes to do more of when he reduces his schedule next year.

Montgomerie today plays Ian Woosnam, who had treatment for a slight neck injury after beating Bernhard Langer by two strokes. "Bernhard beat me in the Seve Ballesteros Trophy so it was nice to get one back on him," Woosie said. "It will be a good match against Scotland."

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