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Tour News (posted 14th October 1998)

Monty wants change in Matchplay format


Wentworth, Surrey -  Colin Montgomerie has called for the World Match Play Championship to become an eight or 16-man event.

He said the players involved in the first round had little chance of winning under the present 12-strong format.

The Scot, seeded fifth and drawn against Ryder Cup team mate Thomas Bjørn of Denmark in Thursday's opening round, rates the event too tough on the eight players who do not have first round byes.

When Montgomerie reached the final in 1994, his best performance, opponent Ernie Els was seeded in the top four after winning the U.S. Open and exempt from the first round. Montgomerie was not.

"I won three matches, so did Ernie Els, but he was given the trophy," said Montgomerie. "The 12-man format doesn't work that well. Eight or 16 seems the obvious way around the situation."

The tree-lined, 7,006 yards West Course at Wentworth is a difficult prospect at any time and bad weather is expected to compound the players' problems.

"If it rains this week as if forecast, it will be even harder. It is very tough to play four 36-hole matches here.

"Over the past 10 years the only players who have won the title after playing on opening day were Vijay Singh last year and Corey Pavin in 1994. That proved my point," he said.

"That's why I feel it will be difficult for someone from the first round to actually win because it is a very tiring task. It's a long way round, the course is quite soft and that extra day comes into its own over the weekend if you are still battling through.

This year the top four seeds with byes into the quarter-finals are Singh, seeded first as defending champion and PGA champion, world number one Tiger Woods, Els and Mark O'Meara, Masters and Open champion.

In spite of his criticism, Montgomerie does have two advantages. He won the Andersen Consulting world championship matchplay event in Arizona in January and the British PGA title for the first time over the same Wentworth course in May.

"I've had my first matchplay win and my best stroke play win this year," he said. "The PGA was a big win for me. I had always played well here and never won.

"So it is nice to return to a course where you have won."