Monty Back on Top in Euorpe


European TourNothing like the old guard showing off one more time. That's what happened in 2005 as tour veterans like Jose Maria Olazabal, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Colin Montgomerie combined for four wins and 16 top-five finishes.
Leading the old guard in battle in 2005 was Colin Montgomerie. The Scotsman got off to a hot start as he shared second place at the Caltex Masters, where he was the defending champion. Then in Australia, he finished 11th at the Heineken Classic.
Colin Montgomerie
Colin Montgomerie won his eighth career Order of Merit title in 2005.
Must've had too many free sponsors drinks that week as it was the only time in his first six events that he finished outside the top six. A trip to China knocked him for a loop as he went his next seven tournaments without a top-10.
Monty also threw in a missed cut for good measure. Included in that stretch was a tie for 42nd at the U.S. Open, his first major of the year. Montgomerie missed the Masters after playing Augusta each of the previous 13 years.
After returning to Europe, Montgomerie shared second place at the Smurfit European Open at the K Club, host of the 2006 Ryder Cup - a place and event Monty surely wants to be a part of.
Two events later, the 42-year-old battled world No. 1 Tiger Woods tooth-and-nail during the final round of the British Open. Montgomerie got within one of Woods, but a two-stroke swing over the 12th and 13th holes dropped the Scotsman three back and he would end five back at St. Andrews, where Monty found good karma later in the season.
For Montgomerie, this was his fourth second-place finish in a major championship versus no wins. After the Open Championship, he struggled with a withdrawal and two missed cuts in his next for events.
Battling U.S. Open winner Michael Campbell for the lead in the Order of Merit, Montgomerie closed the season with a bang. He lost in the first round of the HSBC World Match Play Championship, and that defeat to Mark Hensby was a kick in the pants.
Montgomerie returned to the Old Course at St. Andrews, as well as Carnoustie and Kingsbarns, for the dunhill links championship. Trailing by five strokes entering the final round, Monty needed just a 1-under 71 to collect a one-shot win over Kenneth Ferrie.
He nearly faltered with a bogey on 11 and a double bogey at the 12th, but Montgomerie settled in and sank a short birdie putt on the 72nd hole for his first individual win at the Old Course.
With three more events on his personal schedule, Montgomerie ended the season with three top-8 finishes to snatch his eighth Order of Merit crown, as he finished ahead of Campbell for the top spot.
With three-time defending champion Ernie Els on the sideline, the HSBC World Match Play Championship had lost some of its luster. However, with the reigning U.S. Open champion, Campbell, and a two-time U.S. Open winner Retief Goosen on hand, there was no loss of talent in the field.
The final would come down to the aforementioned reigning U.S. Open champ, Campbell, and a two-time European Ryder Cupper, Paul McGinley, who had been blitzing his competition.
Campbell, the fourth seed at the tournament, managed a 1-up win over Geoff Ogilvy in his opening match. With each match played over 36 holes, Campbell needed 37 holes to down his second-round foe, 12th-seeded Steve Elkington.
The 36-year-old made fast work of fellow U.S. Open champion Goosen in the semifinals. Campbell blitzed Goosen, who at the time was the fifth-ranked player in the world, 7 and 6, to make the finals.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the bracket the Irishman McGinley was routing the competition. He opened with an easy 6 and 5 win over Dane Thomas Bjorn. McGinley then throttled 2004 European Ryder Cup teammate, Luke Donald, 9 and 8, in round two.
McGinley faced world No. 13 Angel Cabrera in the semifinals. Cabrera was having a fine season in his own right with a win and four other top-four finishes. The Irishman, though, took care of business with a 4 and 3 win over the Argentine.
In the final match, McGinley and Campbell battled throughout in a tight match. Campbell bogeyed the 31st hole to square the match. However, McGinley bogeyed the 33rd and 34th holes to fall into an insurmountable 2-down hole with two to go.
The victory for Campbell made him the fourth player to win this title and the U.S. Open crown in the same season. He joined a short list that includes Gary Player, Hale Irwin and Ernie Els.
It may not have won a tournament. It may not have been a long shot. But the most memorable shot of the year came from the putter of the legendary Jack Nicklaus.
Jack Nicklaus
Jack Nicklaus poses on the Swilken Bridge for the final time.
Nicklaus, who won two of his three British Open crowns at St. Andrews, missed the cut in what he said would be his final competitive round of golf. But he didn't go down without a fight.
Throughout his career, Nicklaus has had a knack for making putts late in tournaments to close out a win or put pressure on a formidable foe.
Preceding 'the putt,' Nicklaus crossed the Swilken Bridge one last time and paused for a long time to soak in the atmosphere. His partners stopped short of the bridge to give Nicklaus the stage.
True to his fashion for the game of golf, Nicklaus would not spend the lengthy amount of time alone on the bridge. He was joined by his playing partners -- Luke Donald and Tom Watson, a five-time British Open and two-time Senior British Open champion.
Nicklaus did not stop there, as he waved the three caddies onto the bridge for some pictures. Finally, Jack and son Steve, his caddy for the week, were given time alone on the bridge. Tears flowed from many an eye, but the best was yet to come.
The Golden Bear had ripped a huge drive near green and rolled his second shot within seven feet. He dropped in a tough, left-to-right breaker for a final birdie and one of the loudest ovations you'll ever hear on a golf course.
The top rookie on tour has a unique name and a long one at that. Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandaz-Castano collected a win at the KLM Open in his rookie season on tour. He also had another top-10 en route to finishing 57th on the European Tour Order of Merit.
The 25-year-old had a streaky year that started out with him missing three straight cuts before he made his next three. He ended the season making the cut in his final three events, finishing no worse than tied for 34th in those tournaments.
Other top rookies included Sweden's Peter Gustafsson and England's Richard Finch. Gustafsson had best his finish at the Open de Espana, where he tied for second. Finch shared second place at the Italia Open for his best placing of the season.
As mentioned, Michael Campbell won the HSBC World Match Play Championship. That, in and of itself, would have been good enough to give him a good year. But it was Campbell's victory at the U.S. Open that made this a breakthrough season for the New Zealander.
Retief Goosen had held a three-shot lead entering the final day, but collapsed with an 11-over 81. Campbell took full advantage of the opening by carding one of the few sub-par rounds Sunday. He posted a 1-under 69 to hold off world No. 1 Tiger Woods, who also posted a 69, on Father's Day.
All wasn't lost on the season for Goosen, though, as he picked up a win and five other top-five finishes and took fourth in the Order of Merit.
Former European Ryder Cupper David Howell had a strong year as well. He collected a win and two seconds among his 11 top-10 finishes this season. Only Montgomerie (13) had more top-10s this season.
Also having a good year with each picking up two wins were Niclas Fasth, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Stephen Dodd.
Ernie Els deserves to be in the good year category as he won three times early in the season, but a mid-season knee injury halted what could have been a player-of-the-year type season.
Time to pick on guys who didn't get it done this past season. We'll start at the bottom and work our way up.
Lars Brovold -- 20 starts, two cuts made -- not much else to say there. Malcolm MacKenzie played in four more events than Brovold, and actually made two more cuts while earning 15,929 euros and placing 236th on the Order of Merit.
Just two more guys to call out for their play in '05. Englishman Matthew King, coming off a two-win season the European Tour's Challenge Tour, made it to the weekend three times in 24 tries. Not so good. His best finish was a tie for 28th, his first start of the season.
Finally, Mattias Eliasson collected three top-25 finishes in his 24 starts. However, he made only eight other cuts in his 24 starts. His best finish was a share of eighth at the Mallorca Classic late in the season. However, he missed 10 of 12 cuts at one point in the middle of the season.
Related Links:
  • The Year in Review