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Tour News (posted 1st November 1998)

Monty crowned Euro king for the sixth time

From Mark Garrod, PA Sport Golf Correspondent

Jerez, Spain - Colin Montgomerie is Europe's number one golfer yet again for an amazing sixth time in a row. Third place in a thrilling season-ending Volvo Masters at Montecastillo in Spain today put the 35-year-old Scot king of the castle yet again.

Not even a course record-equalling 63 from Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke could dethrone him. The brilliant round gave Clarke his fourth European tour victory by two strokes from another Scot, Andrew Coltart, with a 17 under par total of 271.

But it was not enough to kick Montgomerie off the top spot he has held since 1993.

Montgomerie had to finish eighth to keep Clarke at bay and make it look easy, shooting a 68 to be one behind Coltart on 14 under. In the end he could have scored 72 and still be number one.

One slip, though, could have cost him dear just ask Lee Westwood. From joint leader overnight and with his nose ahead in the money list race, Westwood crashed to a quadruple bogey seven on the short 14th and with that his hopes died.

The 25-year-old from Worksop finished with a 75 and dropped to 12th, allowing Clarke to take second spot from him on the final Order of Merit table.

"All I can say is that it's getting tougher the standard is improving all the time," said a delighted Montgomerie. "Darren's performance today was fantastic. He has as much talent as anybody in world golf. He just has to use it more often.

"I saw he had gone to turn in 30 and I had to counteract him. I'm proud of the way I did it.

"I did exactly the right thing by staying away from the pins. Unfortunately, winning the Volvo Masters became secondary.
"It's been my putting over the last couple of months that has made me number one again. You can't win anything nowadays without putting well."

Clarke, holding his two-month-old son Tyrone within seconds of winning the massive 166,000 first prize, dedicated the victory to close friend Stephen Boler, who died from a heart attack in South Africa during the week.

"I played really solid, gave myself lots of chances and the putts dropped. For quite a long while they haven't been."

He also collected 120,000 from the Volvo Bonus Pool, making it a 286,000 pay-day.

Montgomerie received 63,000 for third place and a 170,000 bonus, taking his winnings for the year to a new record 993,077.

For Westwood it was a day of bitter disappointment. Bernhard Langer had had a hole-in-one at the 172-yard 14th in
the third round but Westwood will take away different memories.

Two behind Montgomerie at the time, he pulled his five-iron tee shot into the bushes left of the green. His provisional was good
to 10 feet but because the first was unplayable rather than lost or out of bounds he had to return to the tee. His next tee shot went the same way as the first, so he had to hit a fourth, put it on the green and two-putted. There was no
way back for him.

"I played poorly. I struggled all day," he said. "My chances had gone by then. It was the start of the round that let me down."
Montgomerie, far from being worried about his position overnight, had said after falling one behind Westwood: "Now it's different he will watch my birdies go in this time."

He felt he had an advantage playing ahead of his young rival rather than behind him, but instead of a birdie it was a bogey
that brought the first change to the leaderboard. Westwood took four at the 221-yard second and with it fell alongside
Montgomerie. Clarke, meanwhile, had come racing past both of them with four birdies in the first five holes and then a 10-foot eagle putt on the long ninth.

He had moved from three behind to three ahead with his sparkling 30, but to be number one he not only had to win.

But Montgomerie also had to drop to ninth and that never seemed likely, especially once Montgomerie had also birdied the 416-yard fifth.

So the Scot's main priority at that moment remained his position relative to Westwood's and he made two crucial strikes around the turn.

His own birdie at the fifth had been matched by Westwood and he might have expected the same to happen on the reachable ninth, but the Nottinghamshire player three-putted for par, missing from five feet.

That was a bonus for Montgomerie and by making a 20-footer on the next he was two ahead of Westwood. That became one when Westwood two-putted the 522-yard 12th, but up ahead Montgomerie did what he said he would and got another
blow in first, holing from nine feet.

Playing partner Coltart, meanwhile, had birdied four out of five holes from the ninth to join Clarke at 15 under. But Clarke, so often a nearly man this season, was not to be denied. Both birdied the long 16th and, while Coltart was three-putting
the 17th Clarke put the icing on the cake with a pitch to seven feet on the last and a putt that equalled the course record set
by Per-Ulrik Johansson last year.

The round was a climax of a season which has once more taken the tour around the world from Thailand and Australia in January, Africa and the Middle East in February and March and then to 13 European countries.

Montgomerie, whose year began with his winning the million-dollar first prize at the Andersen Consulting World Championship in Arizona, played only one of the first 11 tour events.

His main target was the majors again, but once more they eluded him in fact, his only top 10 finish was eighth in the Masters
and he had to turn his attention back to his defence of the number one spot.

1998 Press Association