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Colin Montgomerie set for season finale

Colin Montgomerie's dramatic comeback will be complete this week if he can fend off U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell in the European Tour's finale at the Volvo Masters in Valderrama.

Montgomerie's return to the top in Europe would provide him with an eighth order of merit success, one he has said he will treasure above any of the seven he won successively from 1993 to 1999.

Having slumped down the world rankings to 82nd and finished only 28th in Europe in 2003 and 25th last year after 12 years in the top six, Montgomerie is ready to prove the dark times, including a much-publicised divorce, are behind him.

Now number 15 in the world, the 42-year-old Scot goes into the showdown with Campbell on Thursday, 153,487 euros ($183,400) in front of the New Zealander.

With 666,660 euros on offer for first place, victory by Campbell would thwart Montgomerie. Second place by the U.S. Open champion, if the Scot does not win, would also be enough for the Kiwi to become European number one for the first time.

Campbell missed the first five cuts of the season but went on to beat Tiger Woods down the stretch at Pinehurst for his first major title and also claimed the World Matchplay Championship.

Montgomerie finished second behind Woods in the British Open and won his first European Tour event for 19 months, the Dunhill Links Championship, and has 10 other top 10 successes.

If Campbell finishes third on his own at Valderrama, Montgomerie would need no more than eighth place to capture his eighth Harry Vardon Trophy, 22nd if Campbell is fourth and only 54th out of the field of 55, if the New Zealander can do no better than fifth.

Sergio Garcia can go past the injured Ernie Els to take fifth place on the world rankings, one place below his 2002 best, if the Spaniard wins.

While Montgomerie, after a poor time on the greens in Madrid two weeks ago, will be wondering if his putting will prove to be the difference in staying top in Europe, Garcia goes into the tournament a little more confident with his putter than he has been.

A closing round of 66 to finish tied second behind Jose Maria Olazabal on Sunday in Majorca, left Garcia feeling he had turned the corner.

"It was a good putting round and I needed it," he said. "It has given me good vibes for this week."

Another issue that will be settled this week is Europe's rookie of the year.

Swede Peter Gustafsson, 44th on the European rankings, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano of Spain, 56th, and Britain's Richard Finch (58th) will battle for that honour.

Withdrawals this week by Denmark's Thomas Bjorn and Trevor Immelman of South Africa have cut the field to 55.

October 26, 2005

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