Monty sure to choose his words prudently

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 April, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 April, 1999, 12:00am

Colin Montgomerie could have been excused for waking up in a cold sweat last week.

And it would have had nothing to do with the current form of Europe's number one as he prepares for an assault on June's US Open at Pinehurst where many believe he will belatedly join the elite ranks of Major championship winners.

No. The cause for Monty's consternation would have been the announcement of the 16 countries selected by the International Advisory Committee to take part in the 15th staging of the Alfred Dunhill Cup in October.

For among the invitees to golf's richest team championship are China, India and Paraguay. Established golfing powers they are not. But, as Monty can attest, they're anything but pushovers.

Indeed, the real prospect of having to face at least one and possibly two of those countries in this year's group stage will have sent shudders down the spine of the combative Scotland captain.

Although Montgomerie was an integral part of the Scottish trio that lifted the trophy in 1995, the Alfred Dunhill Cup has also provided him with some of his most humbling experiences.

For all his outstanding achievements, Monty's St Andrews record is scarred by improbable defeats at the hands of players from Paraguay (Raul Fretes), India (Gaurav Ghei) and China (Zhang Lianwei) who, at the time, were ranked more than 500 places below him.

It's become an annual Alfred Dunhill Cup ritual for him to be reminded of his reckless comments prior to meeting Paraguay in the early stages of the 1993 competition. 'If we can't beat them we might as well pack our bags and go home,' was the gist of Monty's pre-match press conference.

Scotland didn't beat them and Monty and his blushing teammates did make an early exit.

A harsh lesson was learned and since then, Monty has, in public at least, been more cautious in what he says about underdogs.

'There are no easy games any more,' he warned, prophetically, before facing off against Ghei in 1996. Sure enough, it was Ghei who won the medal matchplay contest. With Jeev Singh conquering Andrew Coltart, India secured an unlikely 2-1 triumph to hammer another dent into Scotland's golfing pride.

Last year, the headline writers were sharpening their pens again when the Scots were drawn against the 'no-hopers' from China. Although the ultimate humiliation was avoided when Cheng Jun and Wu Xiangbing were beaten, Monty's Cup misery continued when he went down to Zhang.

The triumphs of Zhang and Wu, who got the better of Spain's Jose-Maria Olazabal the following day, made the golfing world sit up and take notice of the Far East's latest emerging golfing nation.

Coupled with the fact that the mainland is a burgeoning market for the English luxury goods company, those memorable efforts were too compelling for tournament organisers to ignore China's claims to be invited back.

And if they happen to find themselves facing the hosts once more, Zhang and Co. will hope the hospitable treatment that the Scottish skipper has so generously afforded unheralded visitors in the past continues.

Passing through Hong Kong last week was one of the most famous names in golf, Jack Nicklaus. Actually it wasn't the Golden Bear himself, but his son of the same name.

Nicklaus Jnr looks and speaks uncannily like his father. Although he has not followed in the huge, Major championship-winning footprints of Nicklaus Snr, he's rapidly earning a reputation as a respected golf course designer in his own right.

The purpose of Jack Jnr's trip to Asia was to inspect progress at two courses he has been designing in Guangdong Province.

'It's encouraging to see how well they're coming along,' said Nicklaus Jnr of the Stanley Ho-developed Wu Yi Fountain Palm Golf Club and the New World Group's Palm Island Golf Club. When completed, both clubs will boast 27 holes.

Nine holes are already open for play at Palm Island in Huizhou, one hour from the Lo Wu border on the outskirts of Shenzhen. The second nine will come on line in June, with the full 27 scheduled to be unveiled in October.

Meanwhile, officials of the Wu Yi club in Jiangmen, a two-hour drive from Macau, are planning to open their first nine in October, with the remaining 18 holes being ready in mid-2000.

Further confirmation of Guangdong Province's standing as the hottest spot for golf course development in Asia comes in the shape of an Ian Woosnam-designed layout near Shenzhen Airport that is also under construction.

With the addition of these three clubs, Guangdong will be just shy of 50 courses. Of those, there are 10 within a half-hour of the centre of Shenzhen.




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