Moody Montgomerie gives his coach the cut

Andy Farrell reflects on the problems of European golf's No 1 after a season that saw a new generation emerge
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The Independent Online
The most predictable forecast of an otherwise unpredictable season, in which, like the greens, things did not always run smoothly, was that Colin Montgomerie would win the money list again. But even Monty's fourth win, sewn up before arriving at the season ending Volvo Masters, had an unexpected twist.

Increasingly, as the Scot became Europe's No 1 and strove to retain his position, he relied on the wisdom and experience of his coach, Bill Ferguson.

But once Montgomerie had missed the cut in both the Open and the US PGA, Ferguson was dispensed with.

For several weeks Montgomerie went through a form of denial. He was not really into practising, he would say, or that he would see Ferguson the following week. Then it became a sabbatical. Now, it is clear there has been a break. But the reasons for it remain hidden.

"The plan is not to reunite," Montgomerie finally explained. "The plan is to phone Bill after Sun City [his last event of the year] and see how I feel." This is news to Ferguson, who is genuinely in the dark.

It was Montgomerie who brought Ferguson on tour from his base in Harrogate. Inevitably, others sought his help, notably Ian Woosnam, who won four times and pushed Monty for the No 1 spot until his back gave out.

"The last I heard was Colin saying on television that he would be contacting me in January," Ferguson said. "I don't know if we will be getting back together. I don't know the reason for the break. He said he wanted to work on his own, but he seems to be struggling at the moment."

Monty, 33, who won three times and extended his own record for a season's earnings to pounds 875,186, was fighting a hook at Valderrama. But in Alastair McLean, his caddie, he believes has a reliable pair of eyes to spot any fault. McLean has proved the perfect foil for the moody Scot. At least one of them has to remain cool under pressure.

"We have done awfully well together," Montgomerie said. "We are good friends and we look after each other. If I do well, he does well, if he does well, I do well. He is intelligent and has a cool head. I would not dream of going with anyone else."

As to a first major or a fifth order of merit win next year, Montgomerie said: "I am concentrating on improving, and if I keep improving, a major might come around. I've improved for nine years in a row, and I hope to make it 10. I have the determination and the desire and as long as I keep that, I will do well."

As far as being the best player in the world not to have won a major, Tiger Woods must come into that category soon. There may be no one quite like Woods in Europe, but a new generation is emerging to take over from the declining stars.

Seve Ballesteros was at least making cuts by the end of the season, but Jose Maria Olazabal did not hit a ball due to his rheumatoid arthritis. Bernhard Langer suffered from the yips again and lost his two great records of not missing the cut and winning every year. Nick Faldo became Masters champion but was never at his best on his rare visits here.

But there were 12 first-time winners and three were rookies who finished in the top 15 on the Volvo Ranking and will be heading to the US Open next year. Thomas Bjorn, Denmark's first winner on tour, held off Padraig Harrington to finish top rookie in 10th place and the vote for the Sir Henry Cotton "rookie of the year" award will be close.

Golf 1996: A year on the European Tour

EUROPEAN TOUR ORDER OF MERIT Leading final places (last year's positions in brackets): 1 (1) C Montgomerie (Sco) pounds 875,146, 2 (65) I Woosnam (GB) pounds 650,423, 3 (47) R Allenby (Aus) pounds 532,143, 4 (4) C Rocca (It) pounds 482,585, 5 (127) M McNulty (Zim) pounds 463,847, 6 (75) L Westwood (Eng) pounds 428,693, 7 (28) A Coltart (Sco) pounds 345,936, 8 (14) D Clarke (N Irl) pounds 329,795, 9 (18) P Broadhurst (Eng) pounds 300,364, 10 (-) T Bjorn (Den) pounds 292,478, 11 (-) P Harrington (Ire) pounds 285,023, 12 (34) P Mitchell (Eng) pounds 282,608, 13 (77) S Ames (Tri) pounds 271,284, 14 (-) R Russell (Sco) pounds 268,830, 15 (52) P McGinley (Irl) pounds 264,966, 16 (11) W Riley (Aus) pounds 250,733, 17 (115) M A Martin (Sp) pounds 248,791, 18 (76) J Van de Velde (Fr) pounds 248,711, 19 (23) M A Jimenez (Sp) pounds 240,737, 20 (101) J Lomas (Eng) pounds 236,322, 21 (107) P Lawrie pounds 232,919, 22 (2) S Torrance (Sco) pounds 228,692, 23 (20) F Nobilo (NZ) pounds 226,849, 24 (46) J Coceres (Arg) pounds 216,375, 25 (94) R Goosen (SA) pounds 215,427, 26 (19) P-U Johansson (Swe) pounds 199,802, 27 (132) J Payne (Eng) pounds 197,805, 28 (91) E Romero (Arg) pounds 178,375, 29 (85) W Westner (SA) pounds 176,501, 30 (188) D Borrego (Sp) pounds 172,534, 31 (24) G Turner (NZ) pounds 172,052, 32 (25) P Baker (Eng) pounds 170,696, 33 (92) D Carter (Eng) pounds 166,112, 34 (35) A Oldcorn (Sco) pounds 165,235, 35 (39) R Claydon (Eng) pounds 164,996, 36 (-) D Chopra (Swe) pounds 161,115, 37 (89) D Hospital (Sp) pounds 161,012, 38 (49) R Chapman (Eng) pounds 156,205, 39 (3) B Langer (Ger) pounds 152,348, 40 (57) A Sherborne (Eng) pounds 151,944, 41 (59) G Orr (Sco) pounds 151,831, 42 (111) R Drummond (Sco) pounds 150,363, 43 (68) R McFarlane (Eng) pounds 150,013, 44 (96) T Johnstone (Zim) pounds 147,369, 45 (-) R Green (Aus) pounds 143,982, 46 (44) P Eales (Eng) pounds 143,555, 47 (29) I Garrido (Sp) pounds 140,377, 48 (207) C Suneson (Sp) pounds 140,011, 49 (30) J Spence (Eng) pounds 139,506, 50 (45) P Hedblom (Swe) pounds 137,143.

Selected: 59 (15) D Gilford (Eng) pounds 119,565, 69 (33) S Ballesteros (Sp) pounds 100,903, 92 (13) P Walton (Irl) pounds 71,565, 116 (7) M James (Eng) pounds 51,279, 123 (12) H Clark (Eng) pounds 42,958, 128 (31) S Lyle (Sco) pounds 41,244.

Facts and figures on the 1996 European Tour.

Lowest round: 61 (-10) Colin Montgomerie (European Masters)

Lowest total: 260 (-24) Colin Montgomerie (European Masters)

Lowest opening round: 62 (-9) Paul Broadhurst (German Open)

Lowest half-way total: 128 (-14) Ian Woosnam (German Open), Sam Torrance (European Masters)

Lowest 54-hole total: 193 (-20) Ian Woosnam (German Open)

Biggest win: 7 shots Mark McNulty (Volvo Masters)

Highest winning score: 289 (+1) Ian Woosnam (Scottish Open)

Lowest finish by winner: 62 (-10) Paul McGinley (Hohe Brucke Open).

Highest finish by winner: 75 (+3) Ian Woosnam (Scottish Open).

Lowest half-way cut: 137 (-5) German Open

Highest half-way cut: 153 (+9) Scottish Open

Leading in all four rounds: Peter Hedblom (Moroccan Open), Retief Goosen (Northumberland Challenge)

Albatrosses: 1 Anders Forsbrand (Catalan Open)

Most holes-in-one: 2 Fabrice Tarnaud (Cannes Open, Spanish Open)

Total holes-in-one: 22

First-time tour winners: 13 (Sven Struver, Paul Lawrie, Peter Hedblom, Raymond Russell, Diego Borrego, Padraig Harrington, Retief Goosen, Marc Farry, Tom Lehman, Lee Westwood, Paul McGinley, Jonathan Lomas, Thomas Bjorn)

Most wins: 4 Ian Woosnam (Johnnie Walker Classic, Heineken Classic, Scottish Open, German Open)

Course records: 29.

Most birdies: 380 Lee Westwood.

Most eagles: 19 Thomas Bjorn.

Best stroke average: 70.13 Mark McNulty.