SI Vault
Edited by Cameron Morfit
May 24, 1999
European Tour Talk Funny Money
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May 24, 1999


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By winning the recent Nationwide Championship, Hale Irwin extended to five his run of consecutive years on the Senior tour with at least one victory. That's shy of the Senior record of nine years, set by Barber from 1981 through '89, and way short of the alltime record for the three U.S. tours.



17 Arnold Palmer


Jack Nicklaus


Kathy Whitworth


16 Billy Casper


15 Betsy Rawls


14 Mickey Wright


Sandra Haynie


Lee Trevino


13 Louise Suggs


12 JoAnne Carner


Amy Alcott


European Tour Talk
Funny Money

Colin Montgomerie didn't predict victory at last week's Benson & Hedges International Open, the first tournament of an important three-week stretch on the European tour that includes this week's lucrative Deutsche Bank SAP Open and then the prestigious Volvo PGA. Rather, he said he fancied the thought of winning two of the three events, which would get him back on track to win a seventh straight money title. "It would be nice to win all of them," said the 35-year-old Scot, who will again be on the short list of favorites at the U.S. Open, June 17-20 at Pinehurst, N.C., "but two of three is O.K."

As expected, and as he has done everywhere except in the U.S., Monty backed up his bombast, shooting a 15-under 273 at Oxfordshire Golf Club in Thame, England, to win by three strokes over Angel Cabrera and Per-Ulrik Johansson. Montgomerie's first victory of the season—he has played in only three European tour events—boosted him from 46th to third on the money list, gave him momentum heading into the Open and restored order to a European tour that has gone decidedly screwy in '99.

For starters, a European did not win until Feb. 14, five weeks into the season, and even then it was not Lee Westwood of England, the Tiger Woods of Europe, but David Howell of England. Westwood, who tied for sixth at both the Players Championship and the Masters before winning the Asian tour's Macau Open on April 18, has a sore right shoulder that has forced him to withdraw from his last two starts.

But to the players' way of thinking, the biggest problem across the pond is the pound—as in, What happened to it? European tour executive director Ken Schofield proudly declared on Jan. 15 that his tour would be among the first to use Europe's new currency, the Euro. It seemed a good idea at the time, what with the European tour made up of players from more than 20 countries. Trouble is, the Euro is not yet widely used, and the players, who can scarcely figure out what they're earning, long for a return to the old days. "All we want is for the tour to print a separate column giving the pounds sterling equivalent," says Paul Eales, a tournament committee member, "because of the confusion the all-Euro policy is causing among players, caddies, spectators and media."

Westwood's condition is a greater concern. He missed the cut in his first start of '99, at the Malaysian Open, and three weeks later was bounced in the first round of the World Match Play by 60th-seeded Eduardo Romero. Westwood pulled out after three rounds of the Compaq Classic two weeks ago and last week made it through only nine holes of the pro-am at the Benson & Hedges, during which he played shots out of the rough one-handed, before packing it in. He says he's seen three doctors—two in the U.S. and one in Europe—and none have diagnosed the problem.

As for Montgomerie, he is keenly aware that eight non-Americans have won on the PGA Tour in '99, but after eight years of trying he is still without a W in the U.S. This year Montgomerie has finished 23 rd at the Players Championship, 11th at the Masters and 60th at the MCI. He'll need to putt better—Monty hit every green but took 34 putts during his 68 last Thursday at Oxfordshire—if he's to win at Pinehurst. "You can't go into a U.S. Open thinking iffy," he says. "If you're not quite on your game, the course will find you out, especially that one."

Watson Looks Ahead
He'll Make a Super Senior

Since winning the '98 Colonial at age 48, Tom Watson has joined a group that's bidding to buy his hometown Kansas City Royals; has sent his daughter, Meg, to Duke, where she just completed her freshman year; and has designed three golf courses that will open next year in Japan, South Carolina and Missouri. "I have no complaints," Watson says, "except for the way I'm playing."

Watson will be defending his title this week at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, but he doesn't like his chances. After a season in which he finished 29th on the money list, Watson has plummeted to 126th in '99. His best finish is a 16th at the Sony (Hawaiian) Open in January, and he's coming off a missed cut at last week's Byron Nelson Classic. "When I was younger, even when I played poorly, I made up a lot with distance," says Watson, who ranks 152nd in driving distance. "With length you can overcome wildness, but if you're short and crooked, you can't win."

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