After making three birdies in a row on Riviera’s finishing holes Sunday to force a playoff for the PGA Championship, Colin Montgomerie came up short on a fourth try and lost the overtime duel with Australian Steve Elkington.
“He won the tournament. I did not lose the tournament,” Montgomerie, a Scotsman from Glasgow, said after his 20-foot birdie attempt on No. 18, the playoff hole, ran a couple of inches to the right of the cup.
Moments earlier, Elkington had made his birdie putt from a slightly longer distance.
And only a few moments before that, Elkington seemingly had the tournament won with a 17-under-par 267 in the regulation 72 holes, only to have Montgomerie make a memorable clutch putt--of almost the same length as the one he missed in the playoff--to tie.
Montgomerie finished 68-67-67-65--267, sharing a PGA scoring record with Elkington. He collected $216,000.
“All I can say about myself is that I did nothing wrong,” Montgomerie said. “I was standing on the 18th fairway when he finished, and I knew I needed a birdie. You know, I take it as a positive that I achieved that.”
Montgomerie started his birdie streak on the 165-yard 16th hole, where he hit an eight-iron to within five feet of the hole and sank it for his sixth birdie of the round. On No. 17, a 576-yard par five, he hit two drivers just short of the green, chipped to within four feet and sank the putt.
He still had to birdie No. 18, 451 yards to an elevated fairway--one of the most difficult finishing holes in golf. Only seven birdies had been made there all day before Montgomerie arrived at the tee.
“On the last hole, I hit a driver and had 179 [yards] to the green,” he said. “Hit an eight-iron to 20 feet.” And knocked the putt in the heart of the hole.
He played the playoff hole in almost identical fashion, hitting a driver and an eight-iron to 20 feet--but this time the putt didn’t drop.
“Possibly I pushed it,” he said. “It was a left-side putt, just outside the left lip, and I possibly started it a bit straight. It was into the grain. . . . I was just interested in getting it, obviously, up to the hole. I had been having trouble leaving putts short all week.”
He had started the final round five shots behind Ernie Els, but said he didn’t expect Els to run away with the tournament.
“Golf’s a great leveler,” Montgomerie said. “You can’t keep scoring 66s and 65s. Everyone was saying, ‘Well, it’s a matter of who’s going to finish second today.’ Steve Elkington and myself didn’t think that, and Brad Faxon didn’t think that, either, starting eight shots back.
“No, golf’s a great leveler,” he repeated. “You might be playing great one day and wake up the next day, and it’s just not there.”
It was the fifth consecutive playoff Montgomerie lost, including the U.S. Open two years ago to Els.
“It went through my mind, my playoff record, and I felt the law of averages has got to take effect sometime. I felt that it was my turn today, but Steve played the hole well.
“What did I think when he sank his putt for a birdie? Well, I’ve played enough match-play golf to expect the unexpected. And when he holed the putt, I mean, obviously, I was hoping he doesn’t do that sort of thing. But he did, and all credit to him. It was a great putt.”