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Monty tees it up with conviction
After Edoardo Molinari's superb victory at Gleneagles, no-one was surprised to see the gutsy Italian join brother Francesco on the bus to Celtic Manor. Elsewhere, the captain had some tough calls to make...

Did you have doubts about Captain Montgomerie in the forthcoming Ryder Cup? Were you thinking that he might not be focused on the events at Celtic Manor, what with all that is going on his private life? Steady, steady. It is too early to tell how Montgomerie will do in Wales in October but in Scotland in August he gave us an insight into his character and showed he is up for a fight with Corey Pavin’s team. If Montgomerie’s captaincy is as good as his performance in the Scottish glens then the Ryder Cup is on its way back to this side of the Atlantic.

Looking like a well-fed civil servant and lacking only a pair of half-moon glasses over which to peer at the assembled media, Montgomerie gave a polished performance. Some surprising stumblers over Edoardo Molinari’s name aside – he was Edorado and then Eduardo before he was “the excellent Mr Molinari” – the captain demonstrated that adding the combined brainpower of Paul McGinley, Darren Clarke, Thomas Bjorn to his own made sure that the most positive message possible was sent west across the Atlantic. Corey Pavin, the US captain, and other members of the US party who were watching the announcement must have been impressed at two unexpected masterstrokes Montgomerie came up with.

Colin Montgomerie
Faith in his team: there may be six rookies in Monty's lineup for Celtic Manor,
but it's a side packed with talent

The first was the addition of Sergio Garcia to the team as the fourth vice-captain after Clarke, Bjorn, and McGinley. It had always seemed more logical to have four vice-captains, one for each match, than three and now he has them. Never mind there is only one Spaniard in the team, Garcia is there because he has been the heartbeat of Europe teams in the past and because of his irrepressible personality at Ryder Cup time. His experience gained from playing in the past five Ryder Cups won’t do any harm either to a team containing six rookies, particularly if the unthinkable occurs and Lee Westwood is not fit to play. Padraig Harrington, with five previous appearances, then becomes the senior pro.

The second master stroke was to include Rhys Davies, the young Welsh player, who has such promise and whose presence out on the course alongside Montgomerie will be a sop to the Welsh spectators. Montgomerie had spoken warmly of Davies during the Wales Open. At Gleneagles he called Davies “the guy with the million-dollar putting stroke” and said he was going to play in many Ryder Cups in future. “Rhys will be my buggy driver,” Montgomerie said.

Within moments of Montgomerie’s announcement, the thought was of Justin Rose warming up on the practice ground before the fourth round of the Barclays event in New Jersey, the first of the four FedEx Cup events. Two tournament victories in the space of four events in the US this past summer were not good enough to get him into a second Ryder Cup and being ranked 22nd in the world was not good enough either. Having won three points out of four in the previous Ryder Cup counted for nothing. This decision could come back to haunt Montgomerie, as could the exclusion of Paul Casey. The man then ranked 9th in the world could not get into a team representing the 12 best players in Europe. The winner of the 2006 World Match Play Championship, the runner-up at the 2009 and 2010 Accenture Match Play Championships and the man who finished third in the Open was surplus to requirements. Casey, paired with Harrington in New Jersey on the day of Monty’s announcement, must have found it hard to understand why he was excluded and the Irishman was included.

No one, though, could doubt Edoardo Molinari’s claim to be the third of Montgomerie’s selections. “In my 24 years on tour I have never seen a finish of that quality when under such pressure,” Montgomerie said of the older Molinari’s surge to victory in the Johnnie Walker Championship. If there had been any doubts about Edoardo, winner at Loch Lomond in July and now at Gleneagles near the east coast of Scotland in August, his remarkably gutsy birdie-birdie-birdie finish dispelled them. What you want from a teammate is that he has mental strength, intestinal fortitude, and the older Molinari clearly has.

Europe has a very strong team, stronger from 1-12 than any previous team, even though it has only three major champions with five major titles between them – three by Harrington, one each by Graeme McDowell and Martin Kaymer. The 1987 European team that became the first to win in the US had four major champions – Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer and Sandy Lyle, who at that time had won seven majors.

Will Monty’s men be good enough? They should be. Perhaps they must be. So much is riding on this Ryder Cup. The biennial competition is the cash cow for the European Tour, generating something between £50 million and £60 million, and victory in Wales will make up for rather worrying reports in the weeks leading up to the event that tickets and the sale of hospitality units were going more slowly than expected. Montgomerie has a few testing weeks ahead of him, culminating on October 3. He has made a good start, though. In Scotland, he played a blinder.

September 2010

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine


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