Monty Back to Being Monty

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04 Ryder CupBLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- Maybe they should call it the Monty Cup.
 
Colin Montgomerie was right where he wanted to be Friday -- posing, strutting, smiling, chatting, leading and, as always, collecting Ryder Cup points for his beloved European team.
 
Two matches. Two wins. All part of a stunning day by Europe, which put the United States in a deep hole by claiming 6 of a possible eight points on the first day at Oakland Hills.
 
'Monty, you are the Ryder Cup!' a fan yelled after Montgomerie hit a shot at No. 12.
 
Indeed.
 
'I do enjoy the team format,' Montgomerie said. 'That's been proven. I enjoy being part of a team, possibly more than I enjoy playing by myself.'
 
Want proof? The 41-year-old Scot played in his 28th and 29th consecutive Ryder Cup matches, a streak that began in 1991 and eclipsed the record held by Seve Ballesteros. Monty has the best winning percentage of anyone who's ever teed off for the European side, going 18-7-5 during his career.
 
He's even managed to win over the American fans, who heckled Montgomerie relentlessly at Brookline five years ago.
 
After finishing off his afternoon alternate-shot match, in which he teamed with Padraig Harrington for a 4-and-2 victory over Davis Love III and Fred Funk, Monty admonished reporters and cameramen for blocking the view of spectators wanting to see the next foursome coming through at 16.
 
'People have been waiting all day to see some golf,' he said. 'Please sit down and let them see.'
 
The mostly American gallery cheered.
 
'Way to go, Monty!' they shouted in unison.
 
Montgomerie and Harrington also paired up for better-ball matches in the morning. They were given the most important task of the day by European captain Bernhard Langer -- somehow, find a way to beat the American dream team of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
 
Both captains figured that would be the match that set the tone for the whole day. How right they were.
 
Montgomerie sank a 10-foot birdie putt at No. 1, the first of four straight birdies to begin the match. The Europeans led all the way, finishing off Woods and Mickelson with one hole to spare.
 
'We felt going out that would be a very important match,' Harrington said. 'We really felt it would be worth more than a point. They were expected to win and get a point for the U.S. team. When we got ahead and stayed ahead, it gave some momentum to our whole team.'
 
In the afternoon, Montgomerie and Harrington had a 1-up lead after bogeying the seventh hole. At No. 8, the Irishman hit a nice-looking shot toward the flag, but it inexplicably kicked right and into the fringe.
 
Facing the possibility of losing the hole, Montgomerie came up with the shot of the day. He turned away from the flag, pitched a wedge shot into the rough and let it kick off the slope. The ball curled toward the cup, stopping just inches away for a conceded par that prevented the Europeans from losing the hole.
 
That seemed to shift the momentum. Montgomerie and Harrington won the next three holes, taking control of the match.
 
'The match was getting away from us,' Harrington said. 'Then Colin hit the perfect chip. That won the match for us, pure and simple. All of a sudden, we won three straight holes. One shot won the match for us.'
 
Go ahead and needle Montgomerie about his failure to win a major championship. When the Ryder Cup is factored in, he's got nothing to be ashamed of.
 
'That's worth a couple of majors to me,' Langer said.
 
Montgomerie, who went through a very public split from his wife this year, has struggled on the course, as well. His world ranking has plummeted to No. 62 and he didn't even qualify for the European team, getting on as one of Langer's wild-card picks.
 
Even so, the Americans know what they're up against when Monty's on the other side in a team competition. He'll undoubtedly play two more team matches on Saturday, and he's never lost a Sunday singles match in his Ryder Cup career.
 
'He's a steadying influence on the golf course, off the golf course and in the team room,' said Jay Haas, who was part of the only U.S. victory Friday.
 
'He's someone who's had success at all different levels, including the Ryder Cup. Obviously, the younger guys have to look up to him. And when he performs like he did today, they're going to listen even harder to him.'
 
Monty isn't ready to celebrate just yet. He remembers the Europeans having a 6-2 lead after the first day in '99 and still being up 10-6 after the second day, only to have the Americans stage the greatest comeback in Ryder Cup history.
 
'We've got a long way to go,' he said. 'We've been here before. We got off to a good start today. That's all it is.'
 
With Monty on their team, the Europeans have to like their chances.

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