reports from Sotogrande
It would be inappropriate to classify Colin Montgomerie as the Red Rum of golf (unfair on the late horse) but yesterday the Scotsman won the European Tour's grand national, the Order of Merit, for the third year running. Big Monty puts up overweight but nothing stops him from winning the marathon, although Sam Torrance ran him perilously close.
Montgomerie said from the outset that he came to Valderrama to win the Volvo Masters. He was denied that achievement by a barnstorming finish from Alexander Cejka but Montgomerie finished second, and if ever there was an occasion where second best was good enough this was it. Cejka shot 70 and at two under for the championship he was two strokes too good for Montgomerie. A stroke further back, in a campaign that began in Dubai last January, was Torrance. "C'est la vie," Torrance said.
Under his breath he would have preferred something more Glaswegian. At the age of 42 and in his 25th year on the Tour, Torrance had never topped the money list. "It's been a great battle," Montgomerie said. "I commiserate with Sam. I feel quite fortunate. This must be hard for him to take. I've only been playing in these last few tournaments because Sam was playing."
In the morning the money was on Big Monty. Only one stroke off the lead, his position looked as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar. Torrance, six shots off the pace, kept the pressure on the leaders with a final round of 68 for an aggregate of 285, one over par and it was the lowest round of the day. He was the only player to break 70. That made him the leader in the clubhouse and he had a couple of hours to kill. He watched the rest sweat, particularly Montgomerie.
From the Costa del Sol, the Rock and Africa beyond was clearly visible on the hottest day of the tournament. No matter. Big Monty was wearing a sweater and by the turn he was the colour of a rudely healthy beetroot. Monty began the week with prize money of pounds 626,651.40 compared to Torrance's pounds 630,481.28. Montgomerie finished with pounds 835, 051. He won pounds 83,400 for coming second here and for coming first in the money table he won a bonus of pounds 125,000.
Yesterday Montgomerie was paired with his Ryder Cup teammate Ian Woosnam. This year they had gone their separate ways. Little Woosie had not been on the winner's rostrum this year and prior to this week was 92nd on the Order of Merit with pounds 66,427, pocket money to the likes of the tearaway Scotsmen.
The Volvo Masters is restricted to the cream of Europe and a handful of what the Tour describes as Category One players: former major winners like Woosnam. The Welshman went out in 34 yesterday to Monty's 37 and there was a four-shot swing at the eighth and ninth - two birdie threes to two bogey fives.
Montgomerie was looking hot and bothered and Woosie headed for home with a two- stroke lead. The greens at Valderrama are probably faster than anything else in Europe and they took their toll on Woosnam over the back nine. He found a bunker at the 12th and dropped a shot and three putted the 14th for a double-bogey six. Montgomerie, by contrast, was a model of consistency over the back nine. He had a birdie at the 12th, eight pars and came home in 35. As Torrance acknowledged, Monty "did what he had to do."
Montgomerie had not dropped a shot all week on the back nine but yesterday he flirted with disaster at the notorious 17th. He had to play his third shot out of rough on a bank. He had 82 yards to the green."It went 82 yards," he said. A foot less and his ball would have rolled back off the green and into the water. "Valderrama is a great challenge," he said. "It's not the birdies you make, it's the mistakes you don't make."
That was the sub-plot. Cejka stole some of Monty's thunder with five birdies on the back nine and he came home in 32. He won pounds 125,000 and also upstaged the more illustrious German, Bernhard Langer. In 1980, when he was nine, Cejka and his father escaped from Czechoslovakia, where golf was considered a bourgeois pursuit, fled through Yugoslavia, Italy and Switzerland and settled in Munich.
He has been to the Tour's qualifying school on six occasions but will not have to return. This year Cejka won the Turespana Open and the Austrian Open, but yesterday's triumph was in a different league. "I don't know what to say," he said."I can't find the words. I need a lot of cigarettes and a lot of alcohol."
Scores and Order of Merit, Sporting Digest, page 24