Monty Ready to Lead Team

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SUTTON COLDFIELD, England ' Three years and over 3,000 miles removed from Brookline, Mass., the sounds are as clear as ever.
 
He can still hear the taunts, the jeers; the personal degradations that drove his father out of the gallery, but drove him exceed his expectations.
 
Colin Montgomerie has long been the target of American insults. Its a cycle. People push, he complains. Then they push harder. And sometimes a push isnt even needed.
 
But even his most staunch of opponents cringe at the way the robust, but thin-skinned Scot was treated in the last Ryder Cup.
 
Unruly American fans heckled Montgomerie incessantly over those three days of competition. He responded, not by trading verbal jabs, but by winning 3 points for his team.
 
When Im in that position, I fight like I never have before, I suppose, he said Wednesday. I holed putts I wouldnt normally have.
 
The more that was said, the better I became.
 
Not all of his Brookline memories are negative, however. Montgomerie recalled his Sunday singles match against the late Payne Stewart, when, after the U.S. had clinched victory, Stewart forfeited a chance at a halve in his match and awarded Montgomerie the victory.
 
When he won the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst, the first thing he said was he was thrilled to be on the Ryder Cup team, Montgomerie said. It meant so much to him to represent his country. And to have drawn against me, if you like, of all people, in the singles match was ' Im sure that it hurt his game, as well as it did my own.
 
And it was a shame the way it finished. Hed had enough; Id had enough, and he picked my ball up at the last, Ill never forget that.
 
This week is Montgomerie's sixth tenure as a European Ryder Cupper, but his first in nearly a decade that he hasnt been his teams top player.
 
The 39-year-old has yet to win anywhere around the world in 2002; he has multiple European Tour victories each of the last nine years. Hes dropped to 17th in the Official World Golf Ranking.
 
Some of his problems have been physical. A bad back has twice forced him to withdraw from a tournament; it almost cost him a chance to compete this week.
 
There have been times over the last two months where I really thought I wasnt going to ' I was going to have to take the rest of the year off. There were times I didnt think I was going to play, he said.
 
But play he will, and likely in all five matches. Montgomerie has played in every match each of the past four Ryder Cups. He has a career record of 12-7-4, going 3-0-2 in the singles.
 
I like match play; I like a one-on-one situation, he said. I like to see my opponent playing alongside me as opposed to 150 other guys spread all over the course. I prefer that idea.
 
Over the first two practice days, Montgomerie has been paired with Englishman Lee Westwood. Westwood usurped the Scot at the top of the Order of Merit (money list) in 2000, ending his seven-year reign as Europes best.
 
But the 29-year-old from Worksop has fallen on hard times over the last two years. Winless since 2000, he has dropped from fifth to 148th in the world rankings.
 
Lee Westwood has played very, very well the last two days, and hes very confident and I would take him as a partner. Id be very happy to have him as a partner, Montgomerie said.
 
Ive had a few battles with him over the years in European tournaments, and I can vouch for him in a strong way.
 
Montgomerie is one of only two players (Bernhard Langer) who competed in the last Ryder Cup at The Belfry, in 1993. And with four first-timers on the team, he has taken a leadership role.
 
Its a nice position to be in, he said. Its a position that I like and thrive on, if you like. Rookies have come up to me already and asked certain questions and certain ideas about whats what.
 
It might be a little bit frightening to ask certain questions, but they could ask me and I could relate to whatever. So I feel I have that sort of on-course role. Obviously not an off-course role because thats down to the captain.
 
This Ryder Cup will be different for Montgomerie, a far cry from the last. Jeers will turn into cheers; provocations into praise.
 
And for the first time in a long time, the No. 1 target is off his back.
 
The first time since we came here in 93 that I havent had that position when Im playing in the Ryder Cup. And I think it does bring its pressure on, being the No. 1 player in Europe, he said.
 
If youre expected to do something, its always quite difficult to achieve. Its always putting more pressure on ones self.
 
And now I dont have that pressure, if you like, and stress, and Im more relaxed because of that.
 
Coming off a Ryder Cup in which he played his best golf ever in America, and suffered his worst experience at the same time, Montgomerie has plenty of motivation to keep the Cup on the continent.
 
But if he needs one more bit of inspiration, he need only look to his captain.
 
'I think it would be nice to sort of finish Sam Torrance's career, if you like,' Montgomerie said. 'It means an awful lot to him. He's a very emotional man, and I know him very well. He's from the same - not just the same country as me, but the same county as me in Scotland.
 
'It would be nice to finish off his career with a win, for his sake.'
 
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