Colin Montgomerie won a thrilling UBS Hong Kong Open on Sunday and immediately offered his sympathies to rival James Kingston, who suffered heartbreak on the final hole for the second successive year.
South African Kingston double-bogeyed the par-four 18th at the Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling to lose by a stroke – 12 months after taking a five at the same hole to gift the title to Miguel Angel Jimenez.
“My heart goes out to James,” said Montgomerie. “That should have been a playoff at worst, to be honest, and then we would have had more drama coming down that last hole. We all feel for him.
“Every golfer who plays the game feels for someone who double bogeys the last to lose. It’s happened before and unfortunately it’ll happen again, but on this occasion I’m glad that I managed to take the spoils after that.”
Montgomerie admitted he was resigned to finishing runner-up after a battling round of even-par 70 on a day when low scoring at the US$1.2 million tournament was difficult.
The Scot headed for the clubhouse with a total of nine-under 271 as Kingston, leading by a stroke, was playing the 18th.
But the South African pushed his tee-shot right into the trees, forcing him to chip out on to the fairway, from where his approach shot came up short and landed in a hollow at the front of the green.
His chip on stopped six feet from the hole and he missed the bogey putt that would have forced a playoff.
Kingston’s misfortune mirrored his fate last year when he pulled his tee shot left into trees and bogeyed the hole while playing partner Jimenez carded a par for victory.
“I just messed up again for the second straight year,” said Kingston. It’s obviously disappointing with the way I finished, but that’s golf. Obviously I was aware of the situation. I was just so nervous.
“Last year I pulled it left and this year I wasn’t going to do the same thing. I hit it to the right and just made the double bogey from there.”
The double bogey gave Kingston a round of one-over 71 and dropped him into a five-way tie for second with Thailand’s Thammanoon Srirot, American Edward Loar, Taiwan’s Lin Keng Chi and Korean star KJ Choi.
Only four strokes separated the top 13 on a day of fluctuating fortunes when no one was able to pull away from the field.
Montgomerie added: “There must be about 20 guys back at the hotel packing their bags and thinking they should have won this tournament. I just happen to be the lucky guy who’s standing here with the trophy.
“I was out in one over and I managed to come back in one under for level par. I played the last five holes in one under, which isn’t great, but no one else did. I said after the second round that 14 under was my target, so I never thought nine under would be good enough to win.”
After the spectacular low scoring in Saturday’s third round, when Scotland’s Simon Yates led a host of players in the low 60s with a course-record 61, conditions were more tricky on Sunday and only a handful of players broke par.
“The greens were firm because we’ve had no rain this week and we also had a bit of wind today. It was also much more difficult because of the Sunday pin positions,” explained Montgomerie, who said he hoped to return to Fanling next year to defend his UBS Hong Kong Open title.
Thailand-based Yates, who held a two-shot lead after the third round, fell away with a 75 to finish in 10th position.