Friday, May 28, 2010

Montgomerie relishes Ryder Cup deadline

By Martin Dempster
Colin Montgomerie was up at the crack of dawn yesterday to unpack boxes as he prepares, following an 18-month stay in a rented property at Gleneagles, to move back to nearby Dunning, where his new family home is being built. His alarm clock will also be set for an early hour on Sunday, 29 August – the day he'll take the wraps off his European Ryder Cup team.
Including this week's Madrid Masters, there are 14 counting tournaments, three of them majors and one a WGC event, to come before the last lap actually takes place, but already the European captain is looking forward to this year's Johnnie Walker Championship over the PGA Centenary Course at Gleneagles.
"To be chairman of the event is an honour in itself but, when you add in the Ryder Cup captaincy and what has to happen on the Sunday evening, then it takes on a whole different role," said Montgomerie, who was quick to note at Gleneagles yesterday that the annual media get-together for the tournament had attracted a full house.
"It (the composition of his team] is important for everyone involved in European golf and I've got some very difficult decisions to make on the Sunday. I think we are likely to see the strongest field we've ever had here... It will be a very interesting event and I'm looking forward to every part of it."
The Scot is pleased with the way his team is shaping up and insists he's not too concerned about Sergio Garcia having said that, on current form, he wouldn't merit a place in the European side that will seek to regain the trophy at Celtic Manor at the beginning of October. "Any team without Sergio Garcia is a weaker one and, by definition, any team with him in it is stronger," said Montgomerie, who intends speaking to the Spaniard at the forthcoming US Open.
"There are three majors and a WGC event to come before the selection and I feel that Sergio's form will turn around. He has great passion for the event and would be a great asset to the team."
Asked if that meant Garcia, currently outside the top 30 in the world after his dip in form, was a certainty for one of his three wild cards if he didn't qualify automatically, he added: "I'm glad I'll have the extra pick for the likes of someone of his calibre, but whether Sergio would get a wild card or not remains to be seen. European golf is so strong just now that I'm in a position where I could pick Team A and Team B and Team B would probably beat Team A as often as the other way around."
According to Montgomerie, the battle for spots is likely to go right to the wire. "There is obviously the potential of someone doing well at Gleneagles, having also done well the previous week, as was the case with Darren Clarke two years ago," he noted. "That means I'll probably be leaving a couple of picks until the last round is finished and it is only right that I do so.
"I'm very happy with my 12 names (on a list he compiled before the qualification process started at last year's Johnnie Walker Championship] compared to what we have. It's going to be very tight regarding the nine who qualify automatically and they're going to have to have played very well to be in that. In fact, they will probably have had to win a few times."
While insisting he won't concern himself too much about the identity of the players in the US team in south Wales, Montgomerie believes Tiger Woods will be one of them and certainly doesn't buy into the theory that Corey Pavin's team would be hindered by the world No 1's presence. Woods, currently nursing a shoulder injury, didn't play when the Americans halted a run of three straight defeats under Paul Azinger at Valhalla in 2008.
"I just can't see him not playing, and for the sake of Ryder Cup and the sport I hope he does play," said the European captain. "I think it would be a better and bigger event with him in it than without, and it would be a bigger and better win for Europe with him against us.
"People say his Ryder Cup record isn't great but it's not bad, you know. He wins a lot more than he loses and you'd certainly like to have someone on your side who is going to guarantee you three points minimum out of five. So it would be very difficult for me to say they'd be a weaker team without the best player who's ever played the game not playing for them – that doesn't add up.
"However, I can't be too concerned about their team. I've got to look after my own house, keep that in order, then whatever is thrown at us we can hopefully counteract it by playing better golf."



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