Montgomerie blown away

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The Independent Online
They took steps to ensure that play was completed last night in the Benson and Hedges International Open but short of applying superglue to the greens there was little that could be done to placate players who were blown apart by 40mph gales. The European Tour has been bedevilled by inclement weather this season and there was no hiding place at the exposed Oxfordshire course.

At the end of a long, hard slog, victory went to - aside from the manufacturers of bobble hats and windcheaters - Stephen Ames. The only man from Trinidad and Tobago to play on the European Tour, Ames won almost pounds 117,000 with a remarkable round of 72, level par. Colin Montgomerie, who resumed at nine under par with a three stroke cushion from his nearest challenger Ian Woosnam, shot 84 to finish at three over par for the tournament.

It included a two-stroke penalty at the 13th where he broke rule 13 by kicking sand in a bunker. His action was construed as "testing the hazard" and it cost him a triple-bogey six. Woosnam had an 82 and Nick Faldo an 80. Monty had asserted that the Ryder Cup cream would rise to the top here but in the event they were blown away, leaving the journeymen to battle over the riches.

Montgomerie's round disintegrated despite the benefit of a two at the second where his sliced tee-shot hit a woman on the temple and the ball rebounded to within eight feet of the flag. Monty, who had knocked the lady off her stool, presented her with the ball, which was a bit like adding insult to injury.

Faldo, the Masters champion, admitted he had lost heart after the eighth where he knocked a ball into the water and took a triple-bogey seven. He felt the game was up when he hit a putt four inches left of the hole and it finished seven feet to the right. "It was hit and hope," he said. Montgomerie said: "Perhaps we shouldn't have been out there." When told of Faldo's view, Monty replied: "Who's Faldo? I'm not interested in what he thinks."

Ames won by a stroke from Jon Robson and by two from Derrick Cooper. Ames, who finished at five under par for the tournament, kept Robson at bay despite taking a seven at the 17th. He made a courageous 12-foot putt at the last for a par after Robson, who bogeyed the last, had set the target with a 73 for 284. Robson, 28 from Basildon in Essex, won pounds 77,770 which, by about pounds 65,000, beats his previous highest cheque. This year he had played in nine events, missing the halfway cut in seven of them.

At 7,205 yards, The Oxfordshire is long; throw in a furious wind with Arctic overtones and you have a recipe for hair-tearing frustration. To a certain degree everybody was forewarned. On the M40 there is a sign, near the course, warning drivers about strong cross winds. Some players thought the pounds 700,000 championship was reduced to a farce but even in the unlikely event of officials being tempted to take the tournament to an extra day, they were denied that option. Today and tomorrow The Oxfordshire plays host to the European leg of the Andersen Consulting World Championship.

Earlier in the day, most of the survivors struggled to break 80. Jeff Hawkes began birdie, par, par, par, octuplet-bogey 11. At the par three fifth he hit a seven-iron into the water. The hole measures 208 yards and, from the dropping zone, 120 yards. Hawkes resorted to a sand-iron and proceeded to hit three more balls into the lake. He finally holed a 10-foot putt to register a score that was eight over par for the hole.

"I don't remember having double figures at a par three and I started playing golf when I was nine years old," Hawkes said. "I would have called it off but it's the Tour that makes the decisions. I saw Barry Lane's ball blown 20 feet on a green next to where we were. It was a little bit of a mockery." Hawkes finished with an 85, 16 over par for the tournament and he was in good company.

Seve Ballesteros came in with a 77, which is about par for the course for him these days, and he described the course as "unplayable." Unplayable for a round of 72 (bar Ames) but in between the fives, sixes and sevens, Ballesteros salvaged four birdies. Rolf Muntz, the former amateur champion from the Netherlands, had a 73 that included an eagle three at the fourth. It was the rarest of species.

BENSON AND HEDGES INTERNATIONAL OPEN (The Oxfordshire, Thame) Leading final scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 283 S Ames (Trin) 73 71 67 72. 284 J Robson 70 70 71 73. 285 D Cooper 71 70 70 74. 287 R Drummond 73 69 70 75; A Coltart 77 67 68 75. 288 P Lawrie 71 71 73 73; M A Jimenez (Sp) 68 70 74 76; W Riley (Aus) 73 71 67 77. 291 S Cage 73 70 71 77; P Fulke (Swe) 74 71 68 78; C Montgomerie 72 68 67 84. 292 R Boxall 76 72 70 74; S Torrance 71 72 72 77; B Langer (Ger) 69 71 73 79; N Faldo 70 73 69 80; I Woosnam 72 70 68 82. 293 J Haeggman (Swe) 72 76 69 76. 294 F Tarnaud (Fr) 75 71 73 75; J Bickerton 74 73 72 75; E Romero (Arg) 75 72 71 76; R Allenby (Aus) 74 72 70 78; R Goosen (SA) 75 72 69 78. 295 G Orr 73 74 74 74; D Carter 73 73 73 76; R Chapman 71 76 69 79. 296 R Muntz (Neth) 73 74 76 73; J Rivero (Sp) 75 73 72 76; M Gates 71 76 72 77; S Ballesteros (Sp) 75 73 71 77; P Baker 69 74 75 78; W Westner (SA) 72 70 74 80; P Moloney (Aus) 72 74 69 81. 297 P Linhart (Sp) 71 73 74 79; M Harwood (Aus) 73 75 69 80; P Affleck 72 74 70 81; R Wessels (SA) 73 72 69 83. 298 S Lyle 74 73 75 76; T Planchin (Fr) 74 74 71 79; M Farry (Fr) 78 68 72 80; H Clark 69 73 75 81; P Eales 74 73 70 81. 300 B Lane 76 72 73 79; M Makenzie 72 72 75 81; F Nobilo (NZ) 75 71 72 82. 301 P Hedblom (Swe) 76 71 75 79; J Spence 72 73 76 80; I Garrido (Sp) 71 77 73 80; F Lindgren (Swe) 74 72 73 82. 302 G Turner (NZ) 72 75 75 80; G Evans 75 73 74 80; T Levet (Fr) 77 70 73 82; O Karlsson (Swe) 72 72 75 83. 303 A Sherborne 72 76 73 82. 304 S Field 74 73 75 82; M Lanner (Swe) 75 72 74 83; E Canonica (It) 70 73 77 84; J Hawkes (SA) 76 71 72 85. 305 R Rafferty 70 71 76 88. 306 T Spence 74 74 77 81; K Eriksson (Swe) 73 74 75 84; M Mouland 72 76 73 85; J Van de Velde (Fr) 69 77 71 89. 307 L Westwood 74 73 75 85. 309 F Valera (Sp) 72 76 74 87. 312 A Hunter 73 73 78 88.

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