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Torrance pleased at Montgomerie's return

Sam Torrancewas out playing golf on Sunday afternoon and so was unable to watch on television the emphatic return to form of Colin Montgomerie in the Murphy’s Irish Open at Fota Island golf club. But as soon as Torrance, the Europe captain in the forthcoming Ryder Cup match against the United States, got home he grabbed his television’s remote control and turned to Ceefax. Within minutes, he knew exactly what had happened and who had done what to whom as far as the Ryder Cup points table is concerned.

“I am delighted,” Torrance said at the performance of Montgomerie in winning, by five strokes, the Irish Open for a third time. “I never had any doubt about him. His poor form has not been a problem for me. Monty is my rock, the strong man of my team. When I first started to play in the Ryder Cup, Peter Oosterhuis was the rock. Then it was Seve Ballesteros and Nick Faldo. Now it is Monty. The baton has passed to him.

“Of course Monty and I had been in touch, but I was never the least bit concerned. It was a good weekend for the Europe team in the Ryder Cup, what with Padraig (Harrington) and Darren (Clarke) finishing joint second. I was sorry (José María) Olazábal missed the cut, though. I see he has fallen out of the top ten (he is 12th) in the table and I want him in my team.”

Montgomerie moved into sixth position on the Ryder Cup points list. His first victory on the European Tour since June 2000 is timely. Starting this week in the European Open at the K Club near Dublin are three events with a total of £7.5 million in prize money, and if Montgomerie is rubbing his hands at the prospect of winning some more handsome cheques then that is only good for European golf. This week there is a purse of £2 million. Next week the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond, in which Montgomerie has not finished worse than tenth in the past five years, is offering prize-money of £2.2 million, and at the Open the week after next there is a prize fund of £3.3 million.

As early as last Thursday Montgomerie was talking about having found something in his swing that was helping him. Interestingly, it was to do with his long game, not his putting, which he tends to moan about all the time. He felt buoyant, self-confident, which he had not felt for some time, and he was even more talkative than he usually is after a good round. He had just set a course record, a 63, and you sensed from the way he was talking that this was a different Montgomerie.

His long game was excellent, but so was his putting, and both departments of his game continued to prosper.

“I’ve been averaging 27 or 28 putts each day, which is four less than normal,” Montgomerie said on Sunday. “Right away that is 16 shots better and that adds up over tournaments. The putting green is where it is won and lost. If I putt like that I have a chance of winning most weeks, but I have to maintain my putting because the standard is improving all the time.

“This was one of the most important victories of my career if not the most important. I have had an awful good look at myself in the past eight months. I am a better person now. I feel I can go forward. I think I have wanted success too much. But I’ve turned it around now. I am a whole lot calmer on and off the course.”

Eimear Montgomerie, his wife, was among the huge crowd on Sunday. It was a well-publicised rift with her that caused Montgomerie to lose form last year and the reaction to that has probably delayed his return to form this year, too.


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