Montgomerie tamed by Torrance's talent

GOLF: The world's richest tournament attracts a tiny crowd to watch two Scotsmen enjoy contrasting fortunes
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The Independent Online
Never in the history of sport have so few turned up to watch a handful of players competing for so much. Sam Torrance defeated his fellow Scot Colin Montgomerie 3 and 1 in the final of the European leg of the Andersen Consulting World Championship of Golf at The Oxfordshire yesterday and won a basic $300,000 (pounds 200,000).

The matchplay tournament is a global event contested over 11 months at five courses on three continents and by his victory here Torrance goes into the grand final with three others in Arizona in January. If he wins there he will pocket $1m.

"I wasn't thinking of the money," Torrance said. "I'd have swapped today's result for last year's Order of Merit." The Scotsmen had a battle royal to determine Europe's No 1 last season, with Monty prevailing at the death. Yesterday afternoon Montgomerie, who won $150,000, gave the impression of being sick of the sight of The Oxfordshire.

Last week he played in front of thousands; yesterday's audience was about 500. "I didn't play well from my first drive to the last putt," Monty said. "It was not just that you were playing for so much money. There was a bit of tension. The worse I got the more confident Sam became." Torrance won the 7th, 8th and 9th holes with an eagle and two birdies to a birdie and two pars and although he was in the water at the 10th and the 11th he kept a cool head.

The two Scotsmen had enjoyed a leisurely lunch, winning their semi-finals in the morning in some style. By the time Torrance had disposed of Miguel Angel Jimenez 6 and 4, he had recorded six birdies; when Monty defeated Bernhard Langer 4 and 3 he had four birdies and an eagle. "I didn't play badly," Jimenez said, and that spoke volumes for Torrance's form.

The Oxfordshire, regarded by some as virtually unplayable during the final round of the Benson and Hedges International on Sunday, was a different animal for the Andersen Consulting. By comparison it was the Thamest of beasts. Montgomerie, who had sand kicked in his face on Sunday when he scored 84, went to the turn two up against Langer but appeared to be in trouble at the 10th.

He hit his approach shot into a bunker. These are the same bunkers that Monty cursed last week, incurring a two-stroke penalty for kicking sand at the 13th in a traumatic final round. When he stepped into the trap his feet sank about a foot and he was so annoyed at finding his ball plugged that he lashed out with his Footjoys. It was construed as "testing the hazard" but that was more like hazarding a guess. The alternative would have been to fine him for unprofessional conduct.

Yesterday morning Monty's bunker shot at the 10th hit the flag (it would have gone about 20 feet past) and the ball dropped into the hole. Langer, on in two, missed from 12 feet and lost the hole with a four to a three.

At the next Monty holed a putt from 60 feet for an eagle. Langer was excellent from tee to green but he couldn't make a putt. "I wasn't yipping them," he said, "but pushing them and pulling them." A subtle difference but the result is not dissimilar.

The Andersen Consulting is the world's richest tournament with prize money of $3.65m. It did not have the greatest impact last year when Barry Lane won $1m in the final in America on New Year's Eve. This time the final has been put back to 4-5 January. "At least I'll be able to have a few on New Year's Eve," Torrance said. On 4 January he plays Scott Hoch, the winner of the American leg, in the semi-finals and in the other semi- final Hisayuki Sasaki meets the winner of the international leg, which will be played in July. That field of eight includes Greg Norman, Nick Price and Ernie Els.

Norman, the world No 1, has agreed to play despite the fact that the sponsors declined his request to pay for the fuel for his private jet. The field here was diluted by the absence of Ian Woosnam and Nick Faldo. Woosnam, asked to substitute for the injured Jose-Maria Olazabal, declined while Faldo asked for appearance money. Considering that the first-round losers received $20,000, the sponsors felt they had already put quite enough into the pot.

ANDERSEN CONSULTING WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP OF GOLF (The Oxfordshire, Thame): Semi-finals: S Torrance (Sco) bt M A Jimenez (Sp) 6 and 4; C Montgomerie (Sco) bt B Langer (Ger) 4 and 3. Final: Torrance bt Montgomerie 3 and 1.

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