Heartbreak at 18th for Oldcorn

TIM GLOVER

reports from County Wicklow

Colin Montgomerie won the Murphy's Irish Open yesterday when Andrew Oldcorn self-destructed on the 18th hole. Perhaps Monty, who seems to be in contention more than any other player, was owed a lucky break but it was particularly cruel on Oldcorn who had the championship at his mercy.

"This was the eleventh win of my career and the most fortunate," Montgomerie said. "As a fellow Scot I feel for Andy Oldcorn. My heart goes out to him. He had it in the bag. I was playing for second place." At least Oldcorn retained a sense of humour. "This," he said, "was my biggest disappointment since Hearts lost the Scottish title on the last day of the season 10 years ago. I don't feel I bottled it."

Oldcorn, who was born in Bolton but raised in Edinburgh and who regards himself as a Scotsman, led by a stroke going into the final round at Druids Glen and had increased his lead to three after going to the turn in 32. Montgomerie had three birdies in the first six holes but appeared to be out of it when he bogeyed the eighth and ninth. He three-putted both holes and, for the second day running, was distracted by a noise or movement in the crowd. There were around 30,000 spectators on the course so the chances of hearing a putt drop were always going to be slim.

Oldcorn, whose career was interrupted when he was struck down with the virus ME, dropped a stroke at the 10th but got back to six under par for the championship with a birdie at the 14th. Montgomerie, playing directly in front of Oldcorn, kept the pressure on by holing putts of around 25 feet for birdies at the 14th and 17th. At the last he hit his approach to within eight feet of the flag and missed the putt.

His 68 put him at five under and as he walked off the 18th green Oldcorn stepped on to the 18th tee. At six under he had the lead by a stroke and the winner's cheque of pounds 127,500 must have been burning a hole in his pocket. His drive landed in the rough to the left of the fairway and he had no option but to lay up short of the water in front of the green. "I had a terrible lie," Oldcorn said. "It's one of those things."

A par four was still a possibility but Oldcorn's chip came up 20 feet or so short of the hole. His putt rolled three feet past. He needed to hole that to tie Monty at five under and force a play-off. He missed and took a double bogey six in a round of 70. His only consolation was a cheque for pounds 66,459.

"That sort of thing has happened before and it will happen again," Montgomerie said. "After 72 holes I had the lowest total. It's nice to get a win under my belt although it happened in strange circumstances." Despite the best efforts of the sponsors to get Montgomerie to down a pint of stout he bottled it and ordered a glass of water instead. Nothing, it seems, will deflect him from his diet.

Had Montgomerie, a runner- up three times this season, lost by a stroke that, too, might have been considered unfortunate. In the first round he had a seven at the 13th that included an air shot. At that point his caddie, Alistair Maclean, said: "If you can win the tournament from this position it will do you the world of good."

Only six players finished under par on a course that came in for more brickbats than bouquets. "Any criticism of Druids Glen is totally unjustified," Montgomerie said. "I'm already looking forward to coming back next year."

Wayne Riley had earlier established the lead in the clubhouse with the best score of the week, a 66 that included nine birdies. The Australian, who denied Montgomerie by winning the Scottish Open at Carnoustie 12 months ago, began the final round with two bogeys but he chipped in twice and had another lucky break at the 15th. From an awkward lie he had to decide whether to go for the green with a five-iron or lay up with a sand wedge. "It was a shot for pounds 120,000 or pounds 10,000," Riley said. He went for broke.

"I got a flier," he said, "and the ball came out like a bullet." It could have gone anywhere and it finished a foot from the hole. "I can't say I'm playing great golf," Riley said. "It was a freaky day." That was an understatement.

Gordon Sherry, the only player not to have a bogey in the third round, could hardly avoid them yesterday. He shot 83, the worst score of the day, and finished joint last. His putting touch completely deserted him. "I reckon I must have had 40 putts," Sherry said. "I've got to put this behind me and have a laugh." This time last year Sherry wore a permanent smile. He had won the Amateur Championship and had a ball in the Scottish Open and the Open. The lad from Kilmarnock has found professional golf hard work, but at least he made the cut here and won a couple of thousand pounds. Small beer, but for Sherry the Murphy's Irish Open has been another valuable learning curve.

MURPHY'S IRISH OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP (Druids Glen, Co Wicklow) Final round scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 279 C Montgomerie 69 69 73 68. 280 W Riley (Aus) 73 68 73 66; A Oldcorn 72 68 70. 281 M A Martin (Sp) 71 68 72 70. 283 R Russell 74 70 71 68; I Garrido (S) 71 69 74 69. 284 P Price 76 70 70 68; R Allenby (Aus) 74 69 71 70; W Westner (SA) 70 70 72 72; R Willison 72 69 71 72. 286 E Els (SA) 73 70 71 72; B Langer (Ger) 67 76 71 72; C Mason 74 68 70 74; J Haeggman (Swe) 71 72 69 74. 287 D Howell 73 73 73 68. 288 R Rafferty 74 72 72 70; D Hospital (Sp) 75 70 72 71; J Townsend (US) 76 70 71 71; R Burns 72 74 71 71; P Mitchell 72 72 71 72; M Mackenzie 75 70 70 73; I Woosnam 71 70 73 74; S Lyle 75 71 68 74. 289 R Chapman 72 73 76 68; P Baker 74 70 75 70; P O'Malley (Aus) 75 70 74 70; M Wills 73 70 74 72; A Coltart 72 68 76 73; F Nobilo (NZ) 71 72 72 74; P Hedblom (Swe) 71 68 75 75. 290 S Torrance 71 72 76 71; J Sandelin (Swe) 74 73 72 71; J Coceres (Arg) 71 72 75 72; M Tunnicliff 76 69 72 73; R Muntz (Neth) 73 70 72 75; D Chopra (Swe) 73 73 69 75; P McGinley 73 71 70 76. 291 D A Russell 71 73 76 71; J Bickerton 76 71 73 71; C Suneson (Sp) 76 71 72 72; S Ames (Trin) 71 74 72 74. 292 M Campbell (NZ) 73 71 76 72; J Payne 77 69 72 74; R Claydon 71 77 70 74; M Roe 75 71 71 75; D Clarke 79 69 69 75. 293 P-U Johansson (Swe) 69 75 80 69; B Hughes (Aus) 74 74 74 71; D Carter 77 71 73 72; R Wessels (SA) 72 75 73 73; B Pappas (SA) 70 78 70 75; S Tinning (Den) 72 72 73 76. 294 R McFarlane 73 75 75 71; P Broadhurst 75 73 75 71; P Lawrie 76 72 75 71; G Murphy 70 71 81 72; J Rivero (Sp) 76 71 75 72; T Johnstone (Zimb) 73 70 75 76; E Giraud (Fr) 75 71 70 78. 295 P Walton 76 72 73 74; F Lindgren (Swe) 70 74 76 75; R Drummond 72 72 74 77. 296 G Evans 76 69 77 74; P Haugsrud (Nor) 77 71 72 76. 297 D Williams 74 73 79 71. 298 P Sjoland (Swe) 75 73 75 75; B Lane 76 72 74 76; S Grappaonni (It) 74 74 72 78; M Hallberg (Swe) 76 70 73 79. 299 M Clayton (Aus) 76 71 74 78; G Sherry 73 74 69 83.

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