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Inexperience no concern for the Europeans

They are rookies in the historic event, seven Europeans facing the pressure of holding on to the Ryder Cup on enemy turf.

That's more than half the 12-member team. The Americans have just one newcomer, David Duval, and he's the world's second-ranked player.

But that doesn't cause much concern for Colin Montgomerie of Scotland, a veteran of golf's prestigious intercontinental competition. Even experienced players battle butterflies in such a high-profile tournament.

Montgomerie, who begins play in his fifth Ryder Cup on Friday at The Country Club, learned that when he made his debut in the 1991 event at Kiawah Island, S.C.

"That's what I was told by the senior players of the time," he said today. " 'Just remember, they're as nervous as you are, and get on with it. It's the game of golf.' And that helped me."

Like it or not -- and Montgomerie claims "it's certainly not a burden" -- the task of imparting that wisdom to his younger teammates falls to him because of his age, 36, and his status as the world's No. 3 ranked player behind U.S. Ryder Cup players Tiger Woods and Duval.

"I think the players are looking towards Monty because he's been the European No. 1 for the past, it seems, about 35 years now," European captain Mark James said.

Gone from the team that won the last two Ryder Cups are Nick Faldo, who played in the last 11 Ryder Cups dating to 1977, Bernhard Langer, who was in the last nine, Ian Woosnam, who played in the last eight, and Seve Ballesteros, the captain in 1997 after playing in eight of the previous nine.

"Sure, it's going to be different," Montgomerie said. "It's our loss, but, at the same time, that doesn't mean that we can't do well without them."

The first-timers are Open winner Paul Lawrie, PGA Championship runner-up Sergio Garcia, Andrew Coltart, Padraig Harrington, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Jarmo Sandelin and Jean Van de Velde.

"We're explaining to them what it's going to be like," James said, "so they're under no illusions about the way they're going to be feeling when they get on the first tee or have a 4-foot curler on the first green."

Three other Europeans -- Darren Clarke, Jesper Parnevik and Lee Westwood -- have been in one previous Ryder Cup.

Jose Maria Olazabal, at 33 and playing in his sixth Ryder Cup, shares the elder statesman's role with Montgomerie.

He proved that rookies can be successful when he posted a 3-2 record in 1987, teaming with Ballesteros in all three wins. The Europeans won the event 15-13 at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio.

What can he tell the 19-year-old Garcia and the other European rookies?

"Mainly explain what the situation will be when they are standing on the first tee and playing the matches," Olazabal said. "Sometimes you might start the match and start losing the match after four or five holes. But don't try to push things around. Just try to be patient and play the game."

Garcia was anything but patient in qualifying for the Ryder Cup. He turned pro after The Masters last April and, since then, accumulated enough points to make the team. He didn't expect that to happen and hoped James would choose him as one of the two captain's picks.

"I always think the best and I'm always thinking positive," Garcia said, but "that was probably way too much."

Experience, though, goes only so far. It can't make up for a tee shot into the woods, no matter how many Ryder Cups a golfer has been in.

"If you had your choice, you would want your team to be experienced," James said, "but there's no point in having an experienced team if they're not playing well."

Besides, "I can only play my own ball," Montgomerie said. "I'm sure the rookies that we have on the team will cope."


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