Only five players broke par in the Volvo Masters and two Europeans, Sam Torrance and Lee Westwood, tied for second at one under with Wayne Westner, of South Africa, and Jose Coceres, of Argentina. Two of the leading players of European golf, meanwhile, remain more concerned with verbal combat and at Valderrama it concerns the 17th hole.
Montgomerie, who completed his fourth season as the leader of the money list with pounds 875,146, started the week by stating that the 17th was "a controversial hole last year, it hasn't been changed so it will be controversial again". Seve Ballesteros, the Ryder Cup captain, redesigned Robert Trent Jones's straightaway par-five by introducing features such as a pond in front of the green. "Colin is never happy," Seve responded. "The 17th is the most spectacular hole on this course."
Yesterday, Montgomerie's seven-iron second shot at the 511-yard hole came to a stop six feet onto the green, rested for a few moments, then slowly, but inevitably, rolled back into the water. Having chipped and putted for a par, Monty, in typical fashion, decided not to lay up when describing his feelings.
"It is the worst hole that we play all year," he fumed. "It is completely out of character with the rest of the course. There are 17 good holes and then that one. It's just hideous. It makes this course a lottery. What happened to a shot like mine could decide the Ryder Cup. I know who designed it. He may be the best golfer that ever lived, but he is no course designer."
For most of the players this week, it is the last time they play here. The Volvo Masters will not return after the Ryder Cup and Jaime Ortiz- Patino, the owner of Valderrama, is only open to offers of a "tournament for the best players in the world". Of the 17th, he said: "If Seve tells me that he wants to change it, then I will do it."
With his No 1 status secured, Montgomerie finished down the field in 29th place - as did Ian Woosnam, though both were well in front of Ballesteros. Bernhard Langer finished 16th to see his run of winning a tournament every year on tour since 1980 come to an end. Of his ancestry, with the Ryder Cup in mind, McNulty said: "My mother's side is Scottish and my father's side is Irish but I am proud to be a Zimbabwean. You can't take the bush out of me."
McNulty, with his third win of the season, lifted himself into sixth spot on the money list (and a bonus of pounds 39,000) thanks to the first prize of pounds 150,000. It was thoroughly deserved with his only bogey of the weekend coming at the seventh yesterday with a rare poor drive. McNulty, 43, may not be the longest hitter in the game, but he is one of the straightest and that quality, plus a fine putting touch helped him to extend his four- shot overnight lead with a three-under-par 68.
"In nine years of coming here, I always felt that I might be able to sneak a win," he said. "I was in a good frame of mind all week and my course management was good. This course can turn the top players into moaners and I understand that. If you are not in the perfect position, you are struggling to make par." Robert Allenby, long since returned to Melbourne, stayed in third place and so will receive his pounds 73,000 bonus.
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