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Colin Montgomerie named Ryder Cup captain

Europe, stung by defeat four months ago, have turned to Ryder Cup giant Colin Montgomerie in a bid to wrest back the trophy from the U.S. in the next edition of the biennial match in 2010.

The big, burly Scot had for some time been expected to take over as captain on home soil at Gleneagles in 2014.

Only in recent weeks has Montgomerie been touted as a candidate to skipper the team at Celtic Manor in Wales next year and his appointment was made official in Dubai on Wednesday.

Irked by the 16 1/2-11 1/2 defeat at Valhalla, Kentucky in September, the 15-man tournament committee are desperate to bounce back with a victory.

With the future marketability of the tour, prize funds and sponsorships at stake, who better to act as Ryder Cup spearhead than Montgomerie?

The eight-times European number one served as the team’s talismanic leader when the Americans were vanquished in 1995, 1997, 2002, 2004 and 2006.

With the matches often finely poised going into the last day, it was Monty who invariably led the charge in the decisive singles encounters.

Victory over David Toms at the K Club in Ireland in 2006 meant Montgomerie remained unbeaten in eight Ryder Cup singles stretching back to his debut 15 years earlier.

To some, though, Montgomerie may appear an unlikely choice as a man to bring harmony and a winning mentality back to Europe.

The Scot, who did not play in the 2008 match, is highly strung and not slow to voice the strongest opinion but he has repeatedly shown he is in his element in a team environment.

Montgomerie has been at the centre of countless on-course controversies, with spectators, cameramen and reporters taking turns in his line of fire.

“He is their leader on the course,” said 2002 U.S. captain Curtis Strange. “Certainly Seve (Ballesteros) was their leader for a long, long time and now, with Colin, it’s the same.

“Every team needs a leader, not only by their play but by the way they handle themselves, by the respect of their team mates and peers.”

Dubbed “Mrs Doubtfire” by American galleries because of his grumpy demeanour, Montgomerie’s fellow players on the tournament committee probably held the view the Scot would be better suited to captaining the side at home rather than in the U.S.

The 45-year-old Glaswegian’s sparkling Ryder Cup record is likely to give him a psychological advantage over U.S. captain Corey Pavin next year.

Montgomerie has amassed 23 1/2 points from his eight appearances, third in the all-time points list behind Bernhard Langer (24) and Nick Faldo (25), his predecessor as captain.

Paul Casey, who has featured in winning Seve Trophy sides captained by Montgomerie, said the Scot provided a galvanising influence in the team room.

“He was very attentive,” said Casey. “He showed good attention to detail and spoke well at meetings.

“He got the guys nicely motivated, there was lots of consultation with us and we felt very much a team.”

With 31 titles making him the most prolific British winner on the European Tour, the one blot on Montgomerie’s career is his failure to land a major championship.

He has had a succession of near misses, the most recent at the 2006 U.S. Open.

Playing the 72nd and last hole with a one-shot lead, Montgomerie switched from a six-iron to a seven-iron thinking his adrenaline would send his approach shot safely on to the putting surface.

But agonisingly he missed the green, leaving the way clear for Australia’s Geoff Ogilvy to capture the trophy.

Montgomerie’s appointment as captain appears to have ended his hopes of surpassing Faldo’s Ryder Cup points tally, especially as his playing fortunes seem to be on the wane.

The veteran, once as high as number two in the world, has slumped to 135th in the rankings.

Despite partnering Marc Warren to World Cup glory in China in November 2007, he has claimed only one individual victory in the past three years, in the 2007 European Open.

Regaining the famous trophy at Celtic Manor, though, would put the seal on Montgomerie’s remarkable Ryder Cup adventure.

January 28, 2009

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