COLIN Montgomerie missed out on a third Champions Tour triumph after being overtaken by Bart Bryant and Lee Janzen in the final round of the ACE Group Classic in Florida.
Bidding to record a wire-to-wire win, Montgomerie held a one-shot overnight lead and immediately doubled his advantage with an opening birdie at Twin Eagles Golf Club in Naples.
However, a closing 72 left the 51-year-old, who won both the Senior PGA Championship and US Senior Open last year, having to settle for fifth spot after Bart Bryant equalled the course record with a sensational 62 to secure a play-off with fellow American Lee Janzen (67).
Six behind Montgomerie at the start of the day, Bryant holed his second from the fairway for an opening eagle then added five birdies in the space of seven holes from the third as he stormed out in 29.
Janzen, helped by four birdies on his front nine, turned for home with a two-shot lead but was caught as Bryant birdied at the 11th and 13th then overtaken as his on-form compatriot, who recorded his maiden win on the circuit in 2013 before drawing a blank last season, moved into the lead when he moved to ten-under for the day and 16-under overall with a birdie at the long 17th.
After following his opening birdie with eight straight pars, Montgomerie started for home birdie-bogey-birdie-bogey as the consistency he’d displayed in the opening two rounds deserted him.
Janzen looked to have let Bryant in when he failed to birdie the penultimate hole but then moved to 16-under with a 3 at the last. Sandy Lyle closed with a 71 to finish in the top 20 on five-under. Montgomerie started his 2015 Champions Tour campaign by tying for fifth behind Miguel Angel Jimenez in Hawaii before failing to break 70 in three rounds as he finished joint-59th in last week’s Allianz Championship. That was one of his worst efforts on the over-50s circuit but he burst out of the blocks on Friday with a six-under-par 66 to set the pace in this latest outing and overcame a double bogey to match that effort in Saturday’s second round. He birdied four of his last six holes to move to 12-under for the tournament. Janzen also had a double bogey but shot a 65 to be one back.
Montgomerie birdied the second, third, sixth and seventh before faltering with a double bogey at the ninth. He pushed his second shot into a bunker. His chip then ran back down the hill. He chipped to within four feet but missed the putt.
In bouncing back from that setback, he finished with a flourish by picking up four shots late on. At the 17th, he chose to lay up and credited that with getting a birdie. “It says maybe I’m more patient,” he said. “Maybe I’m maturing, mellowing. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not.” With the Champions Tour entering a month’s break, Montgomerie will now head home to play a part in selecting Europe’s next Ryder Cup captain. On Wednesday, the 2010 skipper will be at Wenworth as part of the new panel appointed to pick the man to lead the visitors in next year’s match at Hazeltine. Jose Maria Olazabal and Paul McGinley, the last two European captains, will also be involved in that process, along with European Tour chief executive George O’Grady and David Howell, who has been nominated by the European Tour’s tournament committee.
In California, Brandt Snedeker led fellow American Nick Watney and Australian Jason Day by two shots with nine holes to play in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Snedeker was out in three-under as he moved to 20-under for the tournament to take over at the head of affairs from overnight leader Jim Furyk.