Monty opens up in afterglow of Celtic Manor

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 October, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 October, 2010, 12:00am

Colin Montgomerie has a lot to smile about these days. His sunny disposition at the Clearwater Bay Golf and Country Club cheered the troop of reporters waiting to ask him whether he had stepped down from the euphoric Ryder Cup cloud.

A far-cry from the curmudgeon who used to snap at the media after one missed putt, Montgomerie is feeling good not only because of Ryder Cup success, but also due to the fact golf's power axis has shifted from the United States to Europe.

Monty ticks off the facts: Tiger Woods is about to relinquish his throne as the top golfer in the world; Europe won the Ryder Cup; three European Tour players have won three of the Majors this year.

Monty is in a good mood and the assembled media heave a sigh of relief.

'Yes, a changing of the guard is taking place - to Europe, the European Tour as well as to Asia where a lot of the golf is being played these days,' grinned the Ryder Cup captain, in town last Tuesday along with China's long-time stalwart Zhang Lianwei to lead HSBC's charity golf day in support of Unicef's universal primary education programme in Asia.

'We have always bowed to America's dominance of the world rankings with Tiger [Woods] and Phil Mickelson as one and two, but now we have Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer coming through. We've had a fantastic year in Europe and that dominance is now changing.'

With five of the top nine players in the world from Europe, and with either Englishman Westwood or Germany's Kaymer set to end the five-year reign of Woods at the top of the standings this month, diehard European Tour stalwart Montgomerie is thrilled.

Throw in the fact that Graeme McDowell won the US Open, Louis Oosthuizen blitzed the British Open and Kaymer grabbed the US PGA Championship and Monty's smile fills all of Clearwater Bay. The 47-year-old Scot will always hold that moment when McDowell sank the 12-foot downhill birdie putt on the 17th hole to clinch the Ryder Cup as 'the best' in his career.

'We had a great team and everyone worked well together,' Montgomerie said. 'It was perfect. The scoreline was close but when you look back, it was better it finished that way.'

The ripples of Europe's victory at Celtic Manor will be felt for a long time, according to Montgomerie, who also revealed he will be returning to play at the UBS Hong Kong Open next month in Fanling.

'Economically, Europe needed that win because sponsorship is more difficult than ever to get these days. So it is important to us as a European Tour to show the world that we are a strong tour. Winning the Ryder Cup was important for the economics of the tour.'

Montgomerie, however, warned that the Americans would not just sit back, especially a person like Woods. He said Westwood and Kaymer had better watch out.

'Knowing Tiger as I do, he will probably go out and win the HSBC Champions [when Woods next comes up against the top European duo] in Shanghai next month,' Montgomerie said.

'He played superbly in the singles after being two-down against Francisco Molinari. It was great for the tournament having Woods win [that match]. He isn't far off from doing that again and he has got a competitive streak.

'He won't like being number two and will come out fighting. Tiger has never won this tournament [the HSBC], Phil Mickelson is the defending champion, Lee or Martin will be the new number one, so it will be a great competition.'

The architect behind the Ryder Cup victory revealed he was all for the reshuffling of the format (because of rain) on the second day - and that he had accepted it as it meant all his 12 players were in action.

'The chief referee told Corey [Pavin, the American captain] and me that the only way to finish was to play as many matches as possible at the same time and not leave anybody out of it. I was in favour, and went immediately and put it to my team, all 12 players as well as the caddies.

'I felt it gave us more of an opportunity to win. We were down at the time and I had to make changes to my prepared pairings. Everything changed and I didn't have to leave anybody out. I was starting to shuffle players around and bingo, suddenly I didn't have to.

'To have the four foursomes and the four fourballs playing in that famous Sunday where we won 5 1/2 points our of six, that's where we won the Cup.'

If he has one regret, then it is the way the European selection process is done. Montgomerie, who had to leave out Paul Casey and Justin Rose, says he will lobby for changes.

'I don't wish the qualification issue to fall on the next captain whereby he has to leave out top-10 players, which is what I had to do. It was a very difficult situation.

'The American system is a bit more straightforward. I sit on the Tour's committee and I'll be making recommendations for change.'

Having done it, the Scot has made way for another to take his place when the event is played two years from now in Medinah, Chicago, and is a firm believer that Ryder Cup captaincy should be a one-off role. 'Not to have to do this again is the right thing to do. We have a lot of potential captains coming through, like Jose Maria Olazabal, Paul McGinley and Darren Clarke, who will take the captaincy in the next few years. So there is no issue with me doing it twice.'

But as for talking about the Ryder Cup, Montgomerie is happy to repeat himself ad nauseum.

'I will never get bored about talking of the Ryder Cup. It has been a part of my life. I've played eight times and now captained a winning team at home. Bored? Never.'

Captain's log

1 Bright start Montgomerie was European Tour rookie of the year in 1988

2 Team player In 8 Ryder Cup appearances he never lost a singles match and is second only to Nick Faldo with 23.5 points won

3 Fanling friendly In December 2005 Monty won the UBS Hong Kong Open by one shot from a group of five players

4 Mr Consistent Topped the European Order of Merit a record seven successive times from 1993 to 1999

5 Leader of men As Ryder Cup skipper in October 2010 he led Europe to a thrilling one-point win that regained the trophy from the US