By Will Pearson, europeantour.com at Woburn
Six years and 55 days after his last professional victory, Colin Montgomerie returned to the winner’s circle with a magnificent six shot triumph at the Travis Perkins plc Senior Masters.
The Scot tamed the Duke’s Course at Woburn Golf Club this week as a professional two under par 70 on Sunday sealed an aggregate total of ten under par 206, a cheque for €52,299 and a first title in just his third start on the European Senior Tour since turning 50 in June.
Montgomerie’s brilliance relegated Spain’s Miguel Angel Martin to a distant runner-up alongside England’s Paul Wesselingh, who surged up the leaderboard with a best-of-the-week 66, on four under par.
Englishman Carl Mason, who was bidding for a third Senior Masters title this week, signed for a two over par 74 to finish in a tie for fourth alongside Scotland’s Ross Drummond.
Montgomerie’s ascent to the Senior Tour had been much-anticipated after a prolific career on The European Tour which yielded 31 titles and a record eight Order of Merits, and he has not taken long to rediscover the form that saw him dominate European golf during the 1990s and early 2000s.
After beginning the day three clear of his nearest challenger Mason, Montgomerie got off to the perfect start when he got up and down from a greenside bunker for birdie at the long first before delivering the coup de grâce at the par five fifth, where a stunning four iron to six feet set up an eagle three and a lead that was never challenged.
A third gain of the day followed at the tenth and despite a pair of bogeys on the home straight Montgomerie completed a highly impressive 41st professional victory in front of record Woburn crowds that numbered more than 23,000 across the week.
“It feels great,” said an elated Montgomerie. “Anybody with any competitive blood in them knows that it is nice to win, to come out on top.
“This course has suited me down to the ground for years. I had a couple of great finishes on the main Tour – the Junior Tour, as I now call it – so it’s nice to come back here and finally win.”
It is Montgomerie’s first professional win since the 2007 European Open at the K Club and sees him become the third rookie in a row to win in 2013 after Denmark’s Steen Tinning captured the Berenberg Masters and Spaniard Santiago Luna returned victorious at the SSE Scottish Senior Open two weeks ago.
“I’ve said it before but it is like a new lease of life turning 50 in golf,” he continued. “I can’t think of any other sports where you take a new step on in your career at such an age and to have such a fine Tour, such an excellent brand, as the Senior Tour as part of that is brilliant so all credit to them for that.”
After starting the day tied for 18th place, 2012 Rookie of the Year Wesselingh vaulted 16 places on Sunday thanks to a fine 66 that saw the 51 year old Liverpudlian find four birdies in six holes from the fifth hole followed by an eagle at the long 11th.
“I’ve nailed it today, I’ve just played really well,” said Wesselingh, whose fine finish bolstered his standing of second in the Order of Merit. “My son Ryan caddied for me this week and I think we finally sussed the greens out today. I’ve got three boys and they all take it in turns but I think he’s enjoyed it this week – especially the first round playing with Sam Torrance and Ian Woosnam.
“I’m not really trying to think about winning the Order of Merit yet, there are a lot more events to come,” he continued. “But what I am really concentrating on is being top six to try to get into the US Senior Open again so today was massive in terms of that goal.”
It has also been a fine run for Spaniard Martin, whose second place at Woburn comes on the back of seventh at the SSE Scottish Senior Open and fourth at the Berenberg Masters.
The 51 year old Madrid man said he had not played his best golf in a one under par 71 but resigned himself to a battle for second.
“Except for Monty, we were all roughly on the same scores so I was fighting to finish runner-up,” he said. “I forgot about trying to go for a victory and so I achieved my aim and am very pleased.”
It was not the day that two-time Senior Masters winner Mason had wished for, meanwhile, as he had to wait until the final hole of the day for his first birdie after a round featuring three bogeys left him in a tie for fourth place alongside Drummond.
Mason could, though, take the consolation of securing his 90th top ten finish in what has been a staggering Senior Tour career thus far.