Sunday, 25 November 2007

Colin Montgomerie and Marc Warren thrilled Scotland and The European Tour as a whole with a superb play-off victory over the United States to win the Omega Mission Hills World Cup in China.

The Scottish duo held their nerve in a thrilling finish over the Olazabal Course to beat Heath Slocum and Boo Weekley at the third play-off hole to win the prestigious trophy for their country for the first time in the event's 54 year history.

The Scots suffered 'extra time' heartache last year as Germany edged them on the first play-off hole in Barbados. But they made amends this time, making par on the third extra hole to secure a maiden World Cup success and finally join England, Ireland and Wales as World Cup winners.

"I didn’t want to say anything to Marc but my play-off record is rubbish,” joked Montgomerie. “But playing with Marc was great and if he is not in the top 20 in the world by this time next year I will be very surprised for he is a fantastic player.

“He holed some crucial putts out there under pressure, none more so than at the first play-off hole to keep us in it. After that went in I thought we were favourites to be honest and so it was great to get the job done. After missing out last year, to come here and win is superb."

Warren returned the compliment to the doyen of Scottish professional golf who now has a World title to stand alongside his eight European Tour Order of Merit successes.

“For this format, Monty is the perfect guy to play with,” said Warren, who continued his play-off success story, the win in China following his Scandinavian Masters success in 2006 and his Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles victory earlier this year.

“If you make a mistake, you know he will hit a fine recovery shot to get you back on track and, just like last year, it was an honour to play for Scotland alongside him.

“We didn’t really feel any extra pressure going into the play-off because we lost out last year but it would have been really disappointing to miss out again which is why it is fantastic that we have won for Scotland for the first time. It is also a great honour to win the first tournament sponsored by Omega and Mission Hills who have looked after us all so superbly this week.”

Scotland had initially looked on course to claim the victory without the need for a play-off after completing their round with a superb six under par 66 in the foursomes format and sat top of the leaderboard by one stroke as the United States and France headed onto the 18th.

In regulation play, the Scots went ahead for the first time after playing the 14th and 15th in three under par. First Warren his a pitch stone dead for a tap-in birdie at the 14th, then Montgomerie produced the shot of the day, a  202 yard six iron to eight feet for Warren to roll in the eagle putt.

Warren's calm demeanor never changed all day and, after Montgomerie had left his first putt 15 feet short at the 16th, the junior partner in the Scottish team took dead aim and hit the centre of the cup for a vital par four. It was, as Montgomerie pointed out, a key moment.

England's Justin Rose and Ian Poulter could not deliver the one 'hot round' they promised all week and came up two strokes short of the play-off. On another week, the English pair might well have won and both admitted they want to do it all over again some day.

After Slocum had teed off at the 18th, Weekley's approach shot rolled within five feet of the pin and Slocum held his nerve to comfortably despatch the putt for a birdie to tie Scotland at 25 under par 263 and force the play-off.

It looked bad for Scotland on the first hole when Montgomerie pushed his tee shot into a fairway bunker and despite a brave escape attempt, Warren sent his approach shot into another bunker close to the flag.

Montgomerie chipped out from the sand but the ball fell short of the pin leaving Warren with a tricky task to putt from ten feet. However, the 26 year old showed no signs of nerves as he bravely made the 25 foot putt for par.

The USA also made par meaning the play-off continued and when both teams parred the second play-off hole it looked like it was going to take something special to separate the two.

On the third play-off hole, suddenly Scotland were strong favourites as Weekley’s heavily hit approach shot came up short of the green and Slocum’s underhit pitch shot finished some 12 feet short of the pin.

With the Scots’ par four assured after having played the hole in regulation fashion, Weekly knew he had to do what Warren had done two holes earlier and knock in a brave putt for par to keep the contest going. His putt was struck well but stayed above ground leaving Scotland champions for the first time.

Outside the leading two nations, France, in the guise of Grégory Havret and Raphaël Jacquelin fell just short as they claimed sole possession of third place by carding a five under par 67 in the foursomes - their disappointing 71 in Friday's alternate shot format in the end proving costly.

That time they struggled to make birdies while carding three bogeys but in the final round they enjoyed a faultless round while collecting five birdies.

Though Rose putted for an eagle on the ninth, two bogeys on the front nine proved damaging for fourth placed England as they completed their round in five under par 67 and a 23 under par total of 265 for the tournament.

"I think we did well to score what we did considering we made some mistakes out there," admitted Rose. "Every time we made a mistake we bounced back brilliantly with a birdie or an eagle but the mistakes proved costly."

South Africa's Retief Goosen and Trevor Immelman combined for a three under par 69 to claim fifth place while Sweden, who carded an impressive two eagles in their final round, finished tied for sixth along with The Netherlands, Germany and Argentina.

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