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Montgomerie's focus far from Ryder Cup

Just six weeks ago, Colin Montgomerie's return to winning ways in Singapore provided a much-needed boost for Europe's Ryder Cup preparations.

Victory at the Singapore Masters proved his on-course confidence was back after a 16-month title drought on the European Tour, while enhancing his bid for an automatic place on Europe's team to face the United States at Oakland Hills.

However, all that has changed considerably following the sad news last week that Montgomerie's private life is in turmoil.

The 40-year-old Briton announced on Thursday he was separating from his wife Eimear with a view to divorce, and this September's Ryder Cup in Detroit, Michigan will now be far removed from his immediate focus.

Although scheduled to play at this week's British Masters at the Forest of Arden in central England, Montgomerie is expected to withdraw. After that, his next event is likely to be the Deutsche Bank Open in Germany in two weeks' time.

In more ways than one, though, he could do with an early return to tournament golf.

Quite apart from providing a welcome distraction from the anguish of a breaking marriage, competitive play could help him stay in the world's top 50, where he needs to be to avoid having to qualify for this year's U.S. and British Opens.

He is also outside the automatic top 10 in the European Ryder Cup standings and, if that situation continues, would have to bank on a wildcard pick for Oakland Hills by European captain Bernhard Langer.

"I always thought he would play his way on to the team and, hopefully, he will," Langer told Reuters earlier this year. "He's only 40 years old -- there's no way he's over the hill.

"I'd love for him to be on the team as a senior player."

All this presupposes Montgomerie remains committed to playing in a seventh Ryder Cup, and the odds are that even he is unsure as he comes to terms with the end of his 14-year marriage.

Ever since he joined the professional ranks in 1988 and became the European rookie of the year, he has been convinced that only 100 percent dedication would suffice if he wanted to realise all his golfing ambitions.

That single-minded focus helped him clinch a record seven consecutive European order of merit titles between 1993 and 1999, but it has also cost him his marriage.

In his autobiography 'The Full Monty', Montgomerie admitted his obsession with the game had come at a price.

"What was happening was, little by little, golf was taking over," he wrote. "I was bringing my golf home and even when I was there, I wasn't giving as much attention to Eimear and the children as I should have done.

"I was constantly thinking of something else. I wasn't a proper husband or a proper father. It almost broke my life."

That episode led to a brief split with his wife in 2000. Their latest break up, however, appears to be terminal.

In January, Montgomerie told Reuters he was determined to be at Oakland Hills in September.

"I really want to make it into the Ryder Cup team on my own merit and I have been working, and will continue to work, very hard to ensure that this is the case," he said.

"Last year was not a good year at all by my standards and I was very disappointed that my world ranking dropped so much.

"My win in Singapore in March meant an awful lot to me -- it meant confidence.

"I lost confidence last year but I have it back now," added the Briton, who was a talismanic figure for the victorious Europeans in the 2002 Ryder Cup at The Belfry.

Europe could certainly do with a fully focused Montgomerie at this year's Ryder Cup. Only time will tell if that is possible.

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