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Montgomerie to play in Wales Open

Colin Montgomerie - a potential Ryder Cup captain in 2010 - will get his first look at that match's Celtic Manor venue when he makes his Wales Open debut next month.

Montgomerie, whose tournament entry was confirmed last night, becomes the biggest name to tee it up at Celtic Manor in the four-year history of the Wales Open.

Defending champion Paul Lawrie and Wales' former world No 1 Ian Woosnam have also announced their intentions to return to the £1.5m event from May 29-June 1 but it is the capture of British golf's leading money winner that has most excited tournament officials.

The European order of merit champion for seven successive seasons from 1993-99, Montgomerie was the top points scorer on either side when Europe regained the Ryder Cup from the United States at The Belfry last September.

He will be expected to continue leading from the front as a player until at least the 2006 match in Ireland but has already been earmarked as a future Ryder Cup captain.

With Ian Woosnam now hoping to skipper Europe before 2010 and Montgomerie's well-publicised run-ins with the American public likely to rule him out of commanding an away match, the 39-year-old Scot has already emerged as one of the favourites for the captaincy at Celtic Manor in seven years time.

Although the award of the prestigious biennial match against the Americans had a bearing on Montgomerie's decision to compete at the Newport resort for the first time, the winner of more than 30 tournaments worldwide has more immediate ambitions.

""I think it will be great preparation for the US Open," he said.

Montgomerie remains one of the best players never to win a major championship and, in common with most of Europe's leading stars, has missed the previous three Wales Opens by being on the other side of the Atlantic, warming up for either the US Open or the US PGA the following week.

Blessed with a much better date this year - two weeks before the US Open and immediately after Europe's flag-ship tournament, the Volvo PGA at Wentworth - Wales Open chairman Andy Stanton hopes to attract even more star names in the coming weeks.

Stanton said, "Colin Montgomerie is a sporting legend and it is a genuine thrill for all involved in the Wales Open to have him appear in our event.

"He is one of the great names of golf and his participation can only help to elevate the status of the competition still further.

"We are hopeful of drawing more top players who have yet to finalise their schedules and we're confident we will have the strongest field ever."

Stanton believes top Americans might start making their way over when the nine new holes being built to accommodate the Ryder Cup are fully integrated into the Wentwood Hills course for the Wales Open by 2006.

"Resort owner Sir Terry Matthews has said that one day Tiger Woods will appear at Celtic Manor but he's a very hard commodity to acquire," said Stanton, alluding to the world No 1's seven-figure appearance fee demands.

"But we are continually increasing the prize money and improving the Wales Open every year and we expect an even more significant purse and field after 2006."

 

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