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Montgomerie claims inaugural TCL Classic

Scotland's Colin Montgomerie hit a final-round five-under-par 67 to overhaul Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee for the inaugural TCL Classic title here on Sunday.

Monty hailed Jaidee as the best golfer he has played with in Asia after winning a fascinating tussle with the former paratrooper, who had gone into the last day with a two-stroke lead.

"I was driving the ball well and I was confident but I under-estimated Mr. Jaidee. He can play the game very well and it's good that Asian players can compete at that level," said Montgomerie, who recorded the third back-to-back win of his career after sharing last week's Volvo Masters in Spain with Germany's Bernhard Langer.

The last time was in 1994 when he won the English Open and German Open in successive weeks.

"I didn't drop a shot in the last 41 holes. Over the weekend, 10 birdies and no bogeys, that is why I won. It was nice not to drop a shot," said the Scot.

Jaidee, 33, had to be content with second place after firing a closing one-under-par 71 to finish two shots adrift.

China's Liang Wen-chong shot 69, his third consecutive sub-70 round, to finish third on 10-under par, one stroke ahead of American Bob May and Michael Campbell.

Montgomerie, known as Monty, had started the day two shots behind the diminutive Thai but drew level when he birdied the monstrous 600-yard par-five fourth hole to set the stage for an engrossing "little and large" match play duel.

After suffering a torrid time with his putter in the third round, Monty found his touch in time to hole a winding 25-foot putt on the eighth hole for birdie to seize the lead for the first time.

A raking three-iron to the challenging par-five 10th hole set up a two-putt birdie to stretch Montgomerie's lead to two strokes.

However, the gritty Thai came firing back.

While Montgomerie laid up on the treacherous par-five 14th hole, where American John Daly had racked up a 10 earlier in the week, Jaidee followed a huge drive with an iron into the heart of the green to halve the deficit.

Another birdie on the 15th hole from Jaidee brought him back on level terms but a crucial three-putt on the 16th hole handed the advantage back to Monty.

On the picturesque final hole, Montgomerie opted for the safety of the middle of the green while Jaidee chose to attack the pin, tucked behind a bunker on the right hand side of the green -- but found sand.

And when the Thai failed to get up and down from the bunker, the title belonged to Montgomerie.

"He (Jaidee) was very good. To birdie 14th and 15th like that, and he was unlucky on 16 when his ball flew the green. But I was very impressed with him," Montgomerie said.

"He's the best player I've played with in Asia and I knew I had to be right on my game to compete with him."

Montgomerie, the only man to have won seven consecutive European Order of Merit titles, has been in inspired form since spearheading Europe's victory in the Ryder Cup in September.

The Scot ended a 15-month title drought at Valderrama last week to end the season in fourth place on the Order of Merit.

"I didn't putt really well today... the (first) putt on 16 was extremely difficult and I just misjudged the pace," said a disappointed Jaidee.

"When I birdied 17 I felt I had a chance to birdie 18 as well so I went for the flag but the wind changed direction at the last moment," he added.

Jaidee has endured a difficult year after a record-breaking 2001, when he topped the Davidoff Order of Merit with more than $350,000 in winnings.

However, the second-place check for $111,250 boosts his winnings to $182,964 and sends him back to the top of the table from 15th.


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