Monty wasn’t too far off the mark

Colin Montgomerie’s prediction two weeks ago that three Europeans would finish in the top five won’t be fulfilled.

Colin Montgomerie’s prediction two weeks ago that three Europeans would finish in the top five at The Masters has little chance of being correct.
But with Lee Westwood battling for the title and Ian Poulter having shared the pace with his fellow Englishman at halfway, the Ryder Cup captain could easily gloss over the fact that, of the 26 Europeans who began the tournament, a mere eight survived the halfway cut.
Especially as nobody finished in the top 16 last year.
For that is progress for you.
“A lot of people thought I’d gone mad last August when, pre-tournament, I predicted that four or five Europeans would finish in the top 10 of the US PGA Championship,” said Montgomerie.
“I admit I was wrong, it was five in the top nine!”
On that occasion Westwood and Rory McIlroy shared third and Soren Kjeldsen, Henrik Stenson and Martin Kaymer tied for sixth.
“In all seriousness, I cannot see why a similar situation cannot unfold at Augusta,” Montgomerie added.
“I will say here and now that I fully expect three out of the top five players come Sunday night to be Europeans.”
With a round to go, Westwood led Phil Mickelson by a stroke, but Poulter had to try to come from six shots back and joint sixth place, while the next best of “Monty’s Men” was Kjeldsen in 22nd spot, 12 shots adrift.
The first Englishman to lead The Masters after 54 holes since Peter Oosterhuis in 1973, Westwood was hoping that the last day would go far better for him than it did for the man now commentating on the event for American television.
Oosterhuis, five behind Tommy Aaron after an opening 73, then shot 70 and 68 to lead by three, but on a Monday finish because of bad weather he managed only a 74 to Aaron’s 68 and ended up joint third.
Maybe Westwood should think British rather than English. Sandy Lyle in 1988 and Ian Woosnam in 1991 won from the front, although Lyle, of course, made a birdie from the fairway bunker on the last to avoid a play-off and Woosnam holed a six-footer.
Nick Faldo’s three victories – 1989, 1990 and 1996 – came from five, three and six strokes behind.
No British player has won any of the four majors since Paul Lawrie at the 1999 Open, while the last to triumph at Augusta was Faldo (also part of this week’s television commentary team) when he took magnificent advantage of Greg Norman’s meltdown 14 years ago.
Westwood has had three third-place finishes in majors, failing to match Tiger Woods’ closing birdie at Torrey Pines at the 2008 US Open and therefore missing out on the play-off against Rocco Mediate, and then three-putting the last at Turnberry last summer to be one behind Stewart Cink and Tom Watson.
Eleven years ago the Worksop golfer, 25 at the time, took the lead entering the back nine of The Masters but admitted afterwards that he felt physically sick in the situation.
Jose Maria Olazabal, with one green jacket to his name already at the time, came through to win a second, beating Davis Love by two and Norman by three. Westwood’s 71 left him joint sixth.
He has not had a better Sunday round since, though. On the four times he has made the halfway cut in the last decade his scores were 76, 77, 73 and then last year 79 when he was lying joint 10th.
Those figures were not a source of confidence, but his play of the last week and of the last year should have been as he prepared for
potentially the greatest day of his career.
He might have earned £1.6million in Dubai on November 22, but he might look back on this April 11 as the pinnacle if he could finish off what he had started.