2005: McGinley, Monty reign in Spain
Paul McGinley may have won the golf tournament, but the Volvo Masters winner was only a subplot in a bigger drama.
McGinley’s 10-under-par 274 total gave him a two-shot victory over Sergio Garcia in the PGA European Tour’s final event of 2005.
But Colin Montgomerie – who tied for third with Luke Donald and Jose Maria Olazabal at 7 under – was the biggest story at Valderrama.
Montgomerie won his eighth European Order of Merit title to overshadow McGinley’s victory, even though it was the biggest victory of the Irishman’s career. The Scotsman had to finish ahead of New Zealand’s Michael Campbell to win the money title. He also could have won the tournament, but closed with a 3-over 74.
It was a case of losing the battle but winning the war.
“I had my own Volvo Masters to win and I did that,” Montgomerie said. “Hugh Mantle (his sports psychologist) and I had a goal at the start of this week and the goal was to win the Order of Merit. I didn’t need this, really, but I wanted it quite badly.”
Not only did Monty watch the leaderboard all week, but he set up his own Campbell observatory to keep close tabs on what the New Zealander was doing. Montgomerie caddie Alastair McLean spent the week asking TV personnel for updates on the New Zealander’s score.
“I had my own telegraph system to find out what Michael Campbell was doing,” Montgomerie said.
What Campbell did was finish 14th, which wasn’t good enough. He trailed Montgomerie by 153,486 euros heading into the tournament and finished 297,953 euros behind.
For three days, Montgomerie was in imperious form, playing the type of golf that had propelled him to seven consecutive Order of Merit titles from 1993 to ’99. He was back to his agitated best, too, shifting cameramen and marshals if they got close to him.
Not many would have predicted Montgomerie winning an eighth Order of Merit title 12 months ago. At that point he was going through a much-publicized divorce, his confidence was low and he didn’t seem to have much competitive fire in his ample belly.
He sank to 82nd in the World Ranking at one point, then became embroiled in the biggest controversy of his career in Jakarta earlier this year when he took an illegal drop after a rain delay in the Indonesian Open. After viewing footage of the incident, Montgomerie donated to charity the 34,000 euros he won for finishing fourth. However, the money stayed on his European money total.
The controversy still hangs over player like a dark cloud, and may dog him for the rest of his career, as many players are still unhappy at the way the situation was handled. It was important, therefore, for Montgomerie to win the money title emphatically. Anything less than a 34,000-euro advantage over Campbell could have been construed as a hollow victory.
The way Montgomerie managed to rebound from the controversy to finish second in the British Open, win the Dunhill Links Championship at St. Andrews and finish third in the WGC-American Express Championship says much about his ability to handle adversity.
Montgomerie always was favored to beat Campbell in this race since the final heat took place on a course he loves. His record at the 1997 Ryder Cup course is second to none. Twice a winner at Valderrama, he practically wrote the script in the first round when he went head to head against Campbell and bettered his score by five shots, 67-72.
“That was important,” Montgomerie said. “I wasn’t prepared to give any sense of weakness. It was so important that I kept my body language correct playing with Michael on Thursday. Whatever happened to me, I was going to walk tall and be committed to everything I was doing.
“This has been the toughest. I was fortunate in many years that Faldo, Langer, Woosnam and Lyle weren’t at the top of their games from 1993 to ’99. But this year I had to compete against guys that are now on top of their games. It’s been much more difficult this year, very much more difficult. It means a bunch to me to come back and do this.”
McGinley was a 33-to-1 shot at the beginning of the week, and his odds slipped after an opening 74. But rounds of 68-65-67 made up for the slow start as he strode to his most important victory. It was the Dubliner’s first victory since the 2001 Wales Open and his fourth European Tour title overall.
The Irishman looked as if he would get nothing out of his season except heartache after losing the World Match Play final to Michael Campbell. That loss came on the heels of a third-place finish at the WGC-NEC Invitational. He also placed second at the BMW Championship, the tour’s flagship event.
“The thing that pleases me more than anything else is the size of the title,” McGinley said. “I was very close to winning three huge titles this year, and it didn’t happen. To win a title of this size means a huge, huge amount to me. I’m proud to have won here competing against the top 60 players in the world.
“Losing to Michael (Campbell) in the final of the World Match Play hit me as hard as I’ve ever been hit before, but it also made me more determined.”
McGinley’s place on next year’s Ryder Cup team – to be held at The K Club, near Dublin – is virtually sealed, a fact that will please all of Ireland.
Montgomerie, a player many thought was past his prime, is another lock to be there, carrying the surprising title of Order of Merit winner for 2005.
But by now, we shouldn’t be surprised by anything Colin Montgomerie does.