Luck of Irish for Monty

By Brian Keogh

Colin Montgomerie had the luck of the Irish as he grabbed his 31st European Tour victory at The K Club.

But Graeme McDowell was hopping mad after the first of two weather delays completely wrecked his title charge in the Smurfit Kappa European Open.

Scot Montgomerie closed with a five-under par 65 before the second stoppage for lightning and then faced a nervous wait before clinching a one-stroke win over Swede Niclas Fasth on 11 under par.

Clutching a cheque for €593,580, Monty admitted he was lucky to get over the winning line after narrowly avoiding water disaster at the par-three 17th and 18th holes on a weather-wrecked closing day.

Faced with a two-hour wait to see if Fasth or Peter Hanson could birdie the last two holes, Montgomerie was relieved to end his 19-month victory drought on a day of thunderstorms.

Monty said: "It's fantastic. It's a long time coming. Almost two years for a win and it felt like two years waiting for Niclas Fasth and Peter Hanson to finish.

"I must admit the last two holes I was fortunate. The ball stayed dry and I made two good threes.

"I have not had an awful lot of luck especially in Major championships over the years and it is nice to have a bit of luck occasionally.

"I have won the Irish Open three times and of course to win the Ryder Cup here felt like another victory. So this feels like the fifth time I have won in Ireland."

In-form Fasth had chances to birdie the 17th and 18th and force a play-off but missed both times to Montgomerie's relief.

Monty said: "Niclas, all credit to him, he hit two great shots in and didn't make the putts. The only time I have sat around and waited for a result was at the 1992 US Open and I finished nearly two hours ahead.

"This was similar in the end because of all the thunder delays we had. I was glad I had my score in the bag at 11 under."

But Monty's joy contrasted with McDowell's pain.

Tied for seventh starting the day, the Portrush man looked out of the running when he went to the turn in level par.

But he caught fire on the back nine with three successive birdies from he 10th to get within two shots of leader Fasth on nine under par.

After a 45 minute delay, he came out cold and immediately bogeyed the 13th with a three putt and never recovered

Despite a birdie at the 15th, he crashed to a nightmare finish with bogeys at the 16th and 17th and a double bogey five at the 18th after a visit to the lake.

After signing for a 71 left him tied for 18th on five under par, he groaned: "I'm gutted. I had a chance to win this tournament but the storm killed me a little bit.

"I tried to fight my way back into it but it really was kicking me when I'm down coming in.

"When I came back out I had 175 yards to a really tough pin and I did not have a chance to hit any balls.

"I didn't get a chance to hit a putt. I didn't get a chance to hit anything. Next thing you hear is you have to be in position in 15 minutes.

"I don't understand really. I was straight on the bus and back into the teeth of a golf tournament. I am no blaming that in any shape or form. It's just bad timing for me after three birdies."

McDowell was also mystified by a series of strange shots with his six-iron that led to a rash of disastrous shots.

He said: "I'll take the club straight to the Callaway truck on Wednesday. I shall have some peace of mind if it is the club.

"I think I hit the club five times including the tee shot on 18 yesterday and every one of them has been an absolute horror story."

By contrast, Montgomerie was fortunate that his six-iron approaches narrowly avoided the water at the 17th and 18th and he managed to chip and putt both times for vital pars.

He was safely in the clubhouse on 11 under par and looked on anxiously as Swedes Fasth and Hanson failed to match his total.

Fasth made two bogeys after the first weather delay and could only pick up one more stroke after that as birdie chances failed to drop at the 17th and 18th.

He closed with a 67 to finish alone in second on 10 under par while Hanson's 68 left him a shot further back with Anthony Wall, Pelle Edberg and Gregory Havret on nine under par.

Fasth said: "It was a brave effort. I felt I was a little unlucky as I was really going strongly when he had the first break and came out and my only two bogeys of the day.

"It was a long way back after that. But I gave it a good go. Nearly but not quite."

Montgomerie was simply delighted to enter the winner's enclosure again and sneak past Nick Faldo in the list of European Tour winners with 31 victories.

Monty added: "You wonder if it is ever going to happen again and I am glad it has and that is 31 wins now, which is one above Nick Faldo.

"He is someone I have respected on the European Tour for many years and to get one more win than him means a lot to me.

"This wasn't an important win. It was a very, very important win after such a dry spell. You wonder if it is ever going to happen again and you have self doubts.

"I heard some people say that the putting has gone, he can't win again. I listened to that and I came out with the belly putter this week and it worked. So I silenced a few."