NEWPORT, Wales – European captain Colin Montgomerie might have had cause to be concerned about the health of his Ryder Cup team when he arrived at Celtic Manor.
Lee Westwood has not competed since the second round of the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone on Aug. 6. Peter Hanson of Sweden had to pull out of the tournament in France last week with a chest infection.
Montgomerie said both players were fit and ready to go.
“I spoke to Peter yesterday. He’s landed here in Britain now and he’s OK, he’s raring to go,” Montgomerie said. “And Lee, I’ve been following his progress very much over the last month. And I’m so glad that he’s played 36 holes over the weekend within a day, so he can cope with that all together. He’s been playing a lot of golf, a lot of practice. So there’s no worries with our fitness at all.”
There was talk that Montgomerie might take Paul Casey – who was not among the three captain’s picks – in case of an injury to Westwood or any other injury on the European side.
Casey had planned a biking trip in western Canada, and that’s where Montgomerie expects him to be.
“He’s gone for a bike ride, and I wish Paul Casey all success,” Montgomerie said. “Lee Westwood has been in close contact with me over the last month. And for that reason – total return to fitness – there was no need to have a so-called reserve.”
If either Europe or the United States needs a reserve, it must be announced before the opening ceremony Thursday. Montgomerie wouldn’t say who that might be – Casey is No. 7 in the world, but Justin Rose won twice in America this summer.
“I would have to go back to my vice captains and we would discuss the situation,” he said.
CELTIC MANOR: As the host captain, Colin Montgomerie can set up the golf course any way he likes. He didn’t do much to Celtic Manor, home of the Wales Open on the European Tour.
He didn’t think he had to, nor did he think it was in the best interest of the Ryder Cup.
“This golf course is set up in a very, very fair manner to allow the best team to win,” he said. “I don’t think it was right to set the course up any other way than to what it’s been designed for. It’s a great, great golf course and it’s in super condition.”
There is a yard-wide stripe of secondary cut about a half-inch deep, then the heavy stuff beyond that. Montgomerie said the greens would be running about 10 1/2 or 11 on the Stimpmeter, which he called ideal.
Montgomerie said the advantage was simply being a European Tour course.
“I was hardly going to set up a U.S. tour setup,” he said. “So it’s a very fair test of golf, and something that our European Tour players will be used to in the pace of greens.
“I think I’m allowing the best team here to win.”
He still can dictate hole locations. And the slower greens typically favor the Europeans.
CLASSY MOVE: The greatest act of sportsmanship in this Ryder Cup so far came on the charter flight over.
Three caddies were bumped off the flight when the plane was reconfigured and there were not enough business-class seats. Instead of sending the caddies to coach, the PGA of America paid for caddies of three captain’s picks – Steve Williams (Tiger Woods), Frank Williams (Stewart Cink) and Joe Skovron (Rickie Fowler) – to go business class from their home cities.
That’s when Jim Mackay stepped in.
Wanting Fowler’s caddie to have a good experience at this first Ryder Cup, Mackay gave up his business-class seat on the charter to Skovron. Mackay, the longtime looper for Phil Mickelson, took a seat that came open in coach on the charter flight.
“Very cool of him,” Skovron said Sunday night at the airport.
Then again, it was suggested to Mackay that an even greater gesture was NOT offering his seat to Steve Williams, who was just as content to fly on his own from his summer home in Oregon.
FREE OF CHARGE: Whether the Americans have the best team at the Ryder Cup won’t be decided until Sunday. They arrived in Wales on Monday as the richest team – at least based on what happened Sunday.
Nine Americans who played in the Tour Championship collectively earned more than $18.66 million – most of that FedEx Cup bonuses, the rest of it Tour Championship earnings. Jim Furyk was the big winner with a combined $11.35 million for both trophies.
“He walked into our team area that we had set up and he got a nice round of ovation from everybody,” U.S. captain Corey Pavin said. “Everybody is happy to see him win. And I’m sure Jim was probably the happiest of all. It’s quite a payday for him. What was it, $11.35 million or something like that? That’s a good deal. He was quite pleased.”
No one will make that much at the Ryder Cup, the one week of the year they play for free.
DIVOTS: The world ranking Monday made it official: For the first time, all 24 players at the Ryder Cup are among the top 50 in the world. It nearly happened two years ago, except that J.B. Holmes was No. 56. Eight of the top 10 players in the world ranking are at the Ryder Cup, with Ernie Els replacing Matt Kuchar in the top 10. Paul Casey, No. 7, was not picked.