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Be Nice to Monty? No Way
Edited by Alan Shipnuck
May 27, 2002
With a victory in Germany, Tiger Woods rejected the company line
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May 27, 2002

Be Nice To Monty? No Way

With a victory in Germany, Tiger Woods rejected the company line

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Apparently Tiger Woods is not a fan of the Be Nice to Monty campaign. Recently, a U.S. golf magazine has taken up Colin Montgomerie's cause, writing an editorial and passing out buttons in a preachy attempt to shape gallery behavior at the upcoming U.S. Open. Montgomerie would benefit more from a crusade to instill a little compassion in Woods, whose hazing has been far more devastating than the occasional boo-bird.

A 26-time winner on the European tour, Montgomerie, 38, has famously never prevailed at a tournament in which Woods was in the field, and the dispiriting streak continued at the Deutsche Bank-SAP Open in Heidelberg, Germany. Watching Monty lose to Woods on the third hole of a Monday playoff—the tournament had begun on Friday to take advantage of a bank holiday—it must have been hard for Monty's critics to muster their old antipathy. The supercilious Scot, once an annual threat to blow major championships down the stretch, now suffers from a balky back, a shaky putting stroke and an excess of cerebral scar tissue. Rarely a contender anymore, Monty is so damaged he talked himself out of winning before this tournament even began.

Four million dollars had been spent revamping St. Leon-Rot, but Monty saw a conspiracy in the longer, tougher setup. "You don't have to be a rocket scientist to work out who is going to benefit most," he said on Thursday. "They clearly believe if he keeps winning, Tiger will feel obliged to keep coming back to defend the title."

This was indeed Woods's fourth straight appearance at the Deutsche Bank. He was given a reported $2 million appearance fee to defend his crown, which was probably a bargain for the tournament as nearly 100,000 fans turned out and 450 media credentials were issued.

Montgomerie made news before the tournament even started, pulling out of the Thursday pro-am after 11 holes when he felt a twinge in his back. He recovered to shoot 66-68 once play began, seizing a share of the midway lead with Alex Cejka. Woods was lurking two strokes back.

The third round was one for the ages. Woods surged into the lead early, going five under on the first five holes. Monty gamely battled back, shooting a 65 to Woods's 64 to maintain a perilous one-stroke lead. Their Monday pairing was their first competitive round together since Saturday at the 1997 Masters. On that fateful day Woods shot a bogeyless 65 to Montgomerie's 74, and Monty has been a beaten man ever since. On Sunday evening he was already playing possum. "I need to get some flexibility into my back if I want to have a chance of competing tomorrow;' he said, not exactly sounding like a guy who was 17 under par.

Tiger was all but licking the blood from his whiskers looking ahead to the final round. "It's going to be a lot of fun going out to compete with Colin," he said. "He's a friend of mine, and I thoroughly enjoy playing with him and competing against him."

No wonder. Monty played well for most of the final round—including birdies on the first three holes—but made a fatal error in sudden death, hitting a half-shank out of a fairway bunker into a pond while playing the St. Leon-Rot's 18th hole for a fourth time on Monday. His playoff record is now a combined 0-9 on the U.S. and European tours.

Afterward Woods was gracious in victory, saying of Monty, "He is a great champion, whether he has a major or not." Of course, he didn't really mean it. He was just being nice.