Montgomerie makes Woosnam suffer again

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The Independent Online
In a familiar story line from 1996, the Battle of Britain at the World Match Play Championship went the way of Big Monty rather than Wee Woosie. It was a result Ian Woosnam anticipated a hole too early when he started to offer Colin Montgomerie his hand at the 15th, but a hole later the Scot confirmed the 4 and 2 result.

Woosnam, despite winning four times earlier in the year, is struggling with physical problems that made his battle with Montgomerie for the European Order of Merit ultimately no contest. He had physio on his back and legs on Wednesday evening and yesterday morning, but his report card said: "Back a little sore, legs okay, putting shocking".

At the first, Woosnam missed from three feet for par and that set the tone of the day. His opponent also struggled on the greens early on but holed from 12 feet at the ninth for a par while Woosnam missed from six feet. "That was crucial," Monty said. "He was favourite to go three up." The Scot played the back nine in the morning and the front nine in the afternoon in 65 to go from two down after eight to four up after 27.

"I drove the ball as well as I ever have," Montgomerie said. "I was hitting it 20 yards further than previous years. I am more confident so I am hitting it harder. Matchplay gives you more freedom to hit the driver more often than in the PGA Championship here."

Monty birdied the last two holes of the first circuit to turn arrears into profit and make lunch more palatable. Woosnam lunched not on the physio's table but on the practice green. However, his putting fortunes were no better in the afternoon.

It was a perfect autumnal day on the West Course, but you got the impression Woosnam had had enough of being Montyed. "I'll be glad when the season is over," Woosnam said. "Monty was hitting it 30 yards past me. He is hitting it straight and even getting a bit of draw and top spin. He can win from the first round." Next the Scot plays Mark Brooks, the USPGA champion and a newcomer to these parts of leafy Surrey.

The same applies to Steve Jones, the US Open winner, who faces Vijay Singh. The Fijian was almost Mickelsoned at the last but hung on for a one-hole win. One down and in a bunker, Phil Mickelson made his last shot on this trip to Europe another from his legendary short game department. The left-hander saw his ball go into the hole on the full, and then bounce out again. "I couldn't believe that happened," the American said.

Singh needed to get up and down for a birdie and did so. He had been five up after seven but Mickelson fought back to be all square after 20. However, he could never edge in front and a poor drive at the 16th put him two down. A birdie at the 17th, when Singh hit his second shot out of bounds, got one hole back and he almost managed it again at the last.

The six-strong American contingent is only down by one as Steve Stricker rallied to beat Steve Elkington. Two down at lunch, Stricker won five out of 10 holes in the afternoon to proceed to meet the defending champion, Ernie Els, of South Africa, with a 3 and 2 victory. Including a 6 and 5 win over another Australian, Robert Allenby in the singles of the Presidents Cup, the young American has now won seven head-to-head matches in a row. "I have a never-give-up attitude," he said. "Tomorrow is going to be tough. The odds are not in my favour, but I don't mind being the underdog."

Mark O'Meara duly dispatched Japan's Nobuo Serizawa, ranked 120th in the world, by 7 and 5 and today plays Tom Lehman. The Open champion only arrived late on Wednesday afternoon when he went to walk the course. "I got out to the ninth and the 10th and it was getting dark," Lehman said. "I decided to walk in and passed a lady who asked me if I was lost. I said, 'no', but the path I was going up turned out to be her drive, so I guess I was."

Lehman's sense of direction will have to be in working order today for although O'Meara does not have his name on the trophy yet, it does at least feature the name of his sponsor.

TOYOTA WORLD MATCH

PLAY CHAMPIONSHIP

S Stricker (US) bt S Elkington (Aus)

3 and 2

C Montgomerie (GB) bt I Woosnam (GB)

3 and 2

M O'Meara (US) bt N Serizawa (Japan)

7 and 5

P Mickelson (US) lost to V Singh (Fiji)

one hole

Today's quarter-finals

Seedings in brackets

0815 and 1230: (1) E Els (SA) v S Stricker (US)

0830 and 1245: (4) M Brooks (US) v (5) C Montgomerie (GB)

0845 and 1300: (3) S Jones (US) v V Singh (Fiji)

0900 and 1315: (2) T Lehman (US) v (7) M O'Meara (US)

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