Monty No Disgrace Finishing 2nd to Tiger

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ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- There's nothing like a good song to cheer you up when you're being trampled by Tiger Woods. They sang one to Colin Montgomerie on the 18th tee Sunday, and it seemed to have the desired effect.
 
``Oh, Monty, we love you,'' a group of men in the grandstands sang, doffing their hats to him.
 
Colin Montgomerie
Despite a runner-up finish to Tiger, Colin Montgomerie was warmly embraced by the Scottish galleries.
Montgomerie may have been six shots down, but he smiled broadly. He smiled some more walking down the 18th fairway, and smiled a lot when he reached the 18th green.
 
He kept smiling when they gave him a silver platter for finishing second, and couldn't stop smiling when he met the press afterward.
 
This guy could be the happiest runner-up ever.
 
In a country that prides itself on being the home of golf, it's not always necessary to win to be a winner.
 
``There's no disgrace finishing second to the best player in the world,'' Montgomerie said.
 
No disgrace at all, if you count up all the times Montgomerie has flopped before in the one tournament he wants so desperately to win. This time Montgomerie was able to stumble to the finish mostly upright, and he seemed as giddy about it as the fans who waved Scottish flags and wore Monty wigs as they followed him around in the final round.
 
``It's very positive,'' he said. ``I'm taking lots of positives from this week.''
 
Of course, positives tend to be good because they stop you from thinking about the negatives. And on a day when he wilted on the back nine after making a run on the front, there was enough of the latter to contemplate.
 
Hitting the wrong club when the wind shifted on the par-3 11th was one. Missing short putts on 11 and 13 were two more.
 
One shot out of the lead after driving the green and making a birdie on the ninth hole, Montgomerie ended up losing by five. In the record books, it will look like a rout. To Monty, it's proof he can still play.
 
``It's nice having a little bit of resurgence now after three years really in the wilderness,'' he said.
 
Montgomerie's troubles, of course, are well known, at least in Britain, where he's great fodder for the tabloids. He has imploded in Opens, once shooting a 64 only to follow it with an 84, sparred with the press, and played the villain's role in front of American fans.
 
At the U.S. Open in Bethpage three years ago, his playing partners in a practice round wore ``Be Nice to Monty'' buttons to try and calm New York fans who still delighted in calling him ``Mrs. Doubtfire.''
 
Add in a messy divorce last year, and allegations this year that he cheated in a tournament in Indonesia and there's enough newsprint material to strip the Sherwood Forest bare.
 
If anything, that's served only to boost his popularity in a country that expects its sports heroes to have flaws and loves nothing better than a loser who goes down valiantly.
 
Montgomerie did just that Sunday, giving the massive crowd a thrill with three front nine birdies, the last one on a two-putt after driving the green at the ninth. The crowd roared with every move he made, while two men ran through the gallery holding large Scottish flags aloft and others wore curly wigs in his honor.
 
When he faltered, they willed him on even more. From the 13th hole on, it was clear he wasn't going to win, but they shouted ``C'mon, Monty'' at every turn and gave him ovations that rolled across the course.
 
``Even when they realized I wasn't going to win, they realized my job in hand was to try and finish second. And they helped me to that cause,'' Montgomerie said.
 
Second paid $753,446, but even with a costly divorce that wasn't the reason Montgomerie had his sights set just below Woods. A day earlier he had played with Woods and edged him by one shot, then proclaimed that it was one of the best days of his career.
 
It seemed almost pathetic that the winner of seven straight Orders of Merit on the European Tour and a playoff loser in both a U.S. Open and PGA championship in the mid-'90s would call a good third round a career highlight. But it only shows what a tailspin the 42-year-old's game has been in.
 
He was once the No. 2 player in the world, but hadn't really contended in the final round of a major since the 1997 U.S. Open at Congressional. Montgomerie, who lost his chance at that major when he missed a 5-footer on the 17th hole, cried afterward.
 
``It's getting me down now, this major business,'' Montgomerie said then. ``The more I'm in contention in these majors, there will be a little bit more pressure. But if I knock on the door enough, as I seem to be doing, especially in this tournament, the door will open one day.''
 
Monty hasn't knocked since, and he must know the door is just about locked.
 
For one day, though, he was No. 2 once again.
 
It was good enough for his fans.
 
And it was just fine with him.
 
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