Tour inquiry puts Monty in clear but storm rumbles on

The last thing Colin Montgomerie needed as he sets off here today on three weeks of golf that could just decide the rest of his sporting year, was a rules rumpus that could have tarnished the whole of his sporting life. But the hour-long grilling he had to suffer at a European Tour meeting on Tuesday night threatened to do just that before he was cleared over an affair that has made the Indonesian Open infamous for all the wrong reasons.

The last thing Colin Montgomerie needed as he sets off here today on three weeks of golf that could just decide the rest of his sporting year, was a rules rumpus that could have tarnished the whole of his sporting life. But the hour-long grilling he had to suffer at a European Tour meeting on Tuesday night threatened to do just that before he was cleared over an affair that has made the Indonesian Open infamous for all the wrong reasons.

It was not the Scotsman's final-round 60 that triggered so many alarm bells but a seemingly innocuous thunderstorm break in the second round. Forced off the course because of lightning, the 41-year-old returned the next morning to find his ball was missing and put another in play. But video footage suggested he played it from a different spot, an advantageous one at that. The penalty for such a misdemeanour would be disqualification.

Montgomerie has since been cleared of any wrongdoing because he consulted with his playing partners and insists he replaced the ball as close as he could to where he thought he had left it, but the matter has remained a disgruntled talking point on Tour and that prompted him to donate his prize-money to charity after looking at the tapes and seeing exactly what had raised the concern.

"I'm glad the matter was raised," said Montgomerie, who last Friday handed all his £24,000 purse from the event to the Tsunami Appeal. "The rest of the committee wanted my view on it and I was there to explain."

Others questioned at the Tour meeting included the Tour's executive director, George O'Grady, in an inquisition that is believed to have lasted more than an hour ­ a meeting where passions ran high. But the tone in that boardroom merely represented the disquiet that has been building since the incident in March. As one professional, who would not be named, said yesterday: "The feeling was, rightly or wrongly, that because he was Colin Montgomerie, he's been treated more sympathetically than some of us might have been." But Montgomerie is now hopeful that the saga has been forgotten. "I think it's been put to bed," he said.

That is some wish in the whispering environs of the locker-room, although the quality of field here at the Dunlop Masters should at least ensure there will something else to be talking about. Lee Westwood, David Howell, Ian Poulter, Brian Davis, Paul Casey ... they've all deigned to forsake the millions of the American PGA Tour to line up.

European Tour bigwigs would therefore not have welcomed comments from the player they have most come to count on as a loyal supporter. "Seeing the likes of Greg [Owen] and Brian [Davis] all striking it rich in the States this year has made me think, 'Hang on a minute ­ I'd like some of that'," said Montgomerie. "Now I've got more freedom in my life I might well take up more chances to play there."

Ouch. That really would be the end.

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