Monty has unkindestcut of all

Tim Glover reports from Los Angeles on the Scotsman who is determined to look on the positive side despite the setback of another play-off defeat

If Steve Elkington is allergic to grass, Colin Montgomerie appears to have picked up an allergy to winning. You can usually bet your bottom dollar that Big Monty will be in the shake-up, almost with as much conviction that the ultimate prize will elude him.

Montgomerie has been in five play-offs in his career and has lost the lot, but what happened to him in the US PGA Championship at the Riviera Country Club on Sunday evening was the unkindest cut of all. This time there would be no bloody inquest. "All I can say is that I did nothing wrong," Montgomerie said. "He won the tournament. I didn't lose it.''

Montgomerie, five strokes off the lead going into the final round, finally got the better of Ernie Els, the man who defeated him in a play-off for the US Open in Pittsburgh last year but somehow, somewhere, somebody always appears to rain on the Scotsman's parade.

This time it was the unlikely figure of Elkington, a man who has been in hospital on so many occasions he would be a suitable candidate, were he of the right nationality, for the European Ryder Cup team. Elkington pulled out of a tournament last week because of a recurring sinus problem . On Sunday morning he was one stroke behind Montgomerie, six behind Els and he finished at 17 under par following a 64. It was his first major at the age of 32 after finishing tied fifth this season in the Masters and tied sixth in the Open at St Andrews.

Els lost the rhythm to his swing and finally ran out of luck. A birdie putt on the 16th, which would have put him at 17 under, hit the back of the cup and the ball horseshoed around the hole before apparently defying gravity. At the next he swung too quickly on the tee and missed another fairway. Elkington was the leader in the clubhouse and only Big Monty had a chance of catching him. A slim chance, especially after he had missed a four foot putt on the 13th to drop his first shot of the round. Then the Hollywood factor came into play. The only way Montgomerie could match Elkington was to birdie the last three holes and that, of course is exactly what he did.

It is remarkably difficult to get a three at the 18th but Montgomerie managed it by holing a 20-foot putt. He shot 65 and equalled Elkington's record aggregate of 267. In the sudden death play-off they returned to the 18th and it came down to a putting competition. Elkington was about 25 feet from the flag and faced almost an identical putt to the one Montgomerie holed in the final round. In she went and Montgomerie, closer to the pin but this time on a different line, saw his ball curl just right of the hole.

Montgomerie, runner up in the Scandinavian Masters the previous week, said: "Having to birdie the last three holes in a major championship and succeeding is a positive note. I'm taking that away positively as I did from the other play-offs I've managed to lose. I've played enough match play to expect the unexpected. Anything can happen and it usually does. I gave myself a good opportunity to win my first major. I've been very close on a number of occasions and some day it's going to happen. The way I'm playing it might happen quite soon.''

Montgomerie admitted that his lamentable record in play-offs crossed his mind before he faced Elkington in the shoot out. "I felt that the law of averages has got to take effect some time. I felt it was my turn. "There was one Scotsman on the green who was delighted to see Elkington's putt go into the hole. Dave Renwick, from Edinburgh, has been caddying for the Australian for 12 months.

Montgomerie, who won $216,000 (pounds 140,000), went to the top of Europe's Ryder Cup table. Jeff Maggert, who finished joint third with Els, and Brad Faxon, who was fifth, both qualified for the United States team for the match in Rochester, New York next month.

Faxon, who shot 63 after going to the turn in 28, a PGA Championship record, moved up to 10th in the Cup standings. The matches start on 22 September, four days before Faxon's wife is due to give birth. "The baby will be induced a week earlier than expected," Faxon said. "my doctor's a big golf fan."

Had he not qualified on merit, Faxon, who has a video tape library full of Ryder Cup matches, was hoping that he would be one of Lanny Wadkins's two selections. He had already complimented the American captain on his swing, his hair, his physique... anything to get into the team.

(US unless stated)

267

S Elkington (Aus) 68 67 68 64

C Montgomerie (GB) 68 67 67 65

(Elkington won at first hole

of sudden death play-off)

269

J Maggert 66 69 65 69

E Els (SA) 66 65 66 72

271

B Faxon 70 67 71 63

273

B Estes 69 68 68 68

M O'Meara 64 67 69 73

274

S Lowery 69 68 68 69

J Leonard 68 66 70 70

J Sluman 69 67 68 70

J Haas 69 71 64 70

C Stadler 71 66 66 71

275

P Stewart 69 70 69 67

K Triplett 71 69 68 67

J Furyk 68 70 69 68

M A Jimenez (Sp) 69 69 67 70

276

C Strange 72 68 68 68

M Campbell (NZ) 71 65 71 69

C Rocca (It) 70 69 68 69

277

J Parnevik (Swe) 69 69 70 69

G Norman (Aus) 66 69 70 72

D Waldorf 69 69 67 72

278

W Austin 70 70 70 68

S Stricker 75 64 69 70

B Mayfair 68 68 72 70

L Janzen 66 70 72 70

B Lietzke 73 68 67 70

N Henke 68 73 67 70

P Jacobsen 69 67 71 71

S Torrance (GB) 69 69 69 71

279

F Couples 70 69 74 66

G Morgan 66 73 74 66

N Faldo (GB) 69 73 70 67

P Azinger 70 70 72 67

D A Weibring 74 68 69 68

M Brooks 67 74 69 69

J M Olazabal (Sp) 72 66 70 71

N Ozaki (Japan) 71 70 65 73

280

N Price (Zim) 71 71 70 68

P Walton (Irl) 71 70 71 68

L Clements 67 71 72 70

F Funk 70 72 68 70

S Lyle (GB) 67 73 69 71

281

B Crenshaw 68 73 73 67

P Senior (Aus) 68 71 74 68

C Beck 66 74 73 68

J Gallagher Jnr 64 72 73 72

G Sauers 69 71 68 73

282

K Perry 75 67 70 70

J Adams 65 76 71 70

R Freeman 71 69 70 72

M Ozaki (Japan) 73 68 69 72

B Claar 68 67 73 74

283

H Irwin 71 68 71 73

M Bradley 63 73 73 74

T Kite 70 69 70 74

S Simpson 71 67 71 74

284

E Dougherty 68 72 74 70

T Watson 71 71 72 70

S Pate 71 71 71 71

P-U Johansson (Swe) 72 69 71 72

L Roberts 74 68 71 71

285

L Wadkins 73 69 71 72

M Sullivan 72 69 71 73

B Lane (GB) 74 68 75 68

286

D Pruitt 73 69 72 72

287

D Frost (SA) 69 73 72 73

J Nicklaus 69 71 71 76

288

F Zoeller 72 69 75 72

289

B Kamm 71 66 74 78

291

C Byrum 71 71 78 71

W Defrancesco 69 73 74 75

FINAL SCORES FROM THE US PGA CHAMPIONSHIP

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