Shadow of Jakarta over Montgomerie's redemption day

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The Independent Online

For if, on Sunday evening the season's final money list does not show the 42-year-old more than £23,496.76 clear of his nearest pursuer then all hell will, indeed, break loose, and the controversy that golf prayed was buried for good will rage again. Yep, "Jakartagate" will rear its ugly head and once more be flashing its evil but alluring smile in Montgomerie's direction.

"The best thing for Monty would be either to win the Order Of Merit by more than that Indonesian prize money or, if not, just to lose to Cambo," said one European Tour professional last week. "Because if that tournament does end up counting then the whispers will start all over again."

Even out of earshot, Montgomerie will know the content. The replacement of his ball the morning after a lightning break had suspended play for that March day may have been only a foot or two awry, but it has since taken on immeasurable proportions, chiefly in the form of unanswered questions.

Why was Monty not disqualified for such an obvious infraction? Why did he not mark the ball, as is the norm, when the siren sounded? Why did he allegedly tell a dining partner he would be faced with "an almost impossible shot" the next day, but then put a ball in an undeniably advantageous position that enabled him to rescue par? And, seemingly most damningly of all, if this "error" was, as he has maintained, "unwitting", why did he donate the resulting cheque for fourth place to charity but not have it struck off the money list?

John Paramor, the Tour's chief referee, can at least put the last query to a bed that refuses to be made. "Colin actually asked if he could do this," he said. "But I told him this wasn't an option. Our current rules say that once a result is posted, it stands. End of story."

If only. This could be merely the juicy bits of the story should the clouds conspire in a certain direction on the Costa del Sol. For Campbell to overhaul the lead he will probably have to finish first or second at the 1997 Ryder Cup venue, and it is far more likely that a confident Montgomerie will prevail in a shoot-out the European Tour hope will be bloody in competitive terms only. For too long their Order of Merit race has been either a one-horse affair or between two who didn't really care where the line was, so to have a couple of competing beasts who most evidently do is a blessing for officials, sponsors and TV executives alike.

As one of the Tour's most loyal supporters, Campbell's would be an emotional triumph, but not nearly as much as Montgomerie's (by the proper margin, of course). Monty might have won only the one title all year and be five behind his record total of 1999, but he would rank 2005 as a more meaningful milestone. "All the wins back in the Nineties meant it was roller-coaster - I couldn't really get off," said the world No 16, who has cut his ranking by more than three-quarters from opening the year in a lowly 83rd place. "The seven Order Of Merit titles just kept rolling along. I wouldn't say it was easy, but it was expected. And then it stopped, and then my life dramatically changed with the divorce a few years go and I always said the next would be the most important. And it would be."

Conceivably, it could also be the most damaging. The "Merit" part would suddenly take on a miserable irony.