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Europe will be favourites for 2006 says Monty

Colin Montgomerie believes Europe are no longer the poor cousins of the United States in the Ryder Cup and will start the biennial match as clear favourites at the K club outside Dublin in 2006.

"This (the Ryder Cup victory) gives the European Tour a fantastic boost and the players huge kudos," said the man who holed the winning putt at Oakland Hills on Sunday.

"For the first time I really do feel we will start 2006 as favourites. That's how strong our tour and everyone connected with it, is," Montgomerie added on Wednesday ahead of The Heritage tournament starting on Thursday.

Europe's Ryder Cup team lagged far behind the U.S. in terms of winners of majors and in the world rankings but defied the statistics by beating the Americans in their own backyard again, and this time by a record nine points.

It was their fourth success in the last five Ryder Cups and Montgomerie believes it proved that the Europeans have not only caught up with but have passed their opponents.

"We didn't just win but brought the cup home with a vengeance. We're not just catching up with the U.S. Tour because that says we're behind," he said.

Ever since Europe clinched their 18-1/2 to 9-1/2 success, the talk has been over who will captain the side in 2006. The 41-year-old Scot said he would be happy to lead the team but also dropped a big hint that he might be targeting 2008.

Asked if how he would feel about captaining a side in America, having not always had the best of receptions there, Montgomerie said:

"I would be honoured if somebody asked me to captain a Ryder Cup team in Australia. Europe, America, wherever it might be, I'd be equally comfortable doing it."

Montgomerie, who escaped a driving ban on Tuesday when a policeman did not appear in court to give evidence against him, will play The Heritage without a practice round after opting for a company day on Wednesday instead of featuring in the pro-am.

But the seven-time European number one hopes his game will blossom individually now.

"I want to try and win again before the end of the year because I haven't done that since March. My main goal is to try and get my game ready for Valderrama (Volvo Masters). I want to win there again."

Montgomerie revealed he had claimed the Oakland Hills 18th green flag and that captain Bernhard Langer and his 11 team mates had not only signed the flag in his honour but also added a congratulatory message on each signature.

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