Montys Mind on Ryder Cup

By Associated PressAugust 11, 2004, 4:00 pm
04 PGA ChampionshipHAVEN, Wis. -- Colin Montgomerie has always been more at ease playing for the flag than for fortune, so its no surprise his mind is more on the Ryder Cup than in shaking his stigma as the worlds greatest golfer never to win a major.
 
Montgomerie, 0-for-52 in majors but rock solid in the Ryder Cup, is showing signs of emerging from a slump and land on the European team for the seventh straight time.
 
Hes got three more chances to move up from 18th in the standings, beginning with the PGA Championship this week at Whistling Straits, and Bernhard Langer said hell consider using one of his two captains picks on him if Montgomerie doesnt jump into the top 10 for an automatic spot.
 
Monty, who has never had to rely on a captains pick before, isnt lobbying Langer.
 
My goal over the next three weeks is to actually qualify for the team, something that Ive been very proud of doing the last six occasions, Montgomerie said. And I hope to make that seven to put him in an easier position.
 
It didnt look possible a few months ago, when the 41-year-old Scot was going through a divorce from his wife of 14 years made even more painful by the attention British tabloids paid to it. His game was so lousy he had to win a qualifying playoff just to get in the British Open at Royal Troon, where he learned the game.
 
Making the Ryder Cup team on his own would be a highlight in the career of the seven-time leader of the European money list who has won 33 times around the world.
 
I would be very proud of myself, Montgomerie said. Actually, Im quite proud of myself right now. But I would be more proud of myself if I could get three good finishes in the next three tournaments and qualify for the team.
 
Langer wont have an easy task if that doesnt happen. He has a deep field from which to choose and on Wednesday he mentioned several other possibilities, including Fredrik Jacobsen, Paul McGinley, Jesper Parnevik, Alex Cejka, Luke Donald, Justin Rose and Thomas Bjorn.
 
Although far removed from his heyday as Europes best golfer, Montgomerie is 16-7-5 in Ryder Cup competition, and Langer considers experience a definite tiebreaker should it be a close call after the NEC Invitational at Firestone and the BMW International Open in Germany.
 
I think its vital in a tournament like that that youve had experience either in the Ryder Cup or in major championships, just to have been under that kind of pressure, he said. The more the better.
 
Montgomeries recent recovery also works in his favor.
 
I have a tendency to pick someone who has played well the last four to six weeks because hes going to be high in confidence, ready to go, Langer said.
 
At Wentworth earlier this year, Langer said he wanted to see evidence that Montgomerie was working his way through his problems. Hes pleased with what hes seen so far, citing Montgomeries play at the British Open and Scandinavian Masters, in particular.
 
His form is very steady and hes extremely close to being the Colin we know, Langer said. You know, hes gradually creeping up in the rankings, as well.
 
Unlike many golfers who havent had much nice to say about Whistling Straits, Montgomerie has found the links-style course very much to his liking. Here, he said, nature tends to play more of a role than technology does, just as it does at the ancient coastal courses back home.
 
So, I look forward to that in a way because it is more like playing a links course than it is your average, standard, American target golf that we tend to play over here, he said.
 
The closest Montgomerie has come to winning a major was at the PGA in 1995 at Riviera. He birdied the last three holes to get into a playoff with Steve Elkington, who promptly birdied the first playoff hole. He lost a three-way playoff at Oakmont in the 94 U.S. Open and was tied for the lead at the 97 U.S. Open at Congressional until missing a 6-foot par putt on the 17th.
 
When it comes to the Ryder Cup, though, few are better than Monty.
 
Ive always enjoyed match-play situation more than I ever have stroke play, he said. My singles record Im particularly proud of, in not having lost, and I dont like losing very much. Now, whether you say thats patriotism ... or whether its an upbringing or whatever it is, I just have an inbuilt desire not to lose. We all dont like to lose, but me in particular.
 
Langer would love to have that attitude'and a back-to-form Montgomerie'with him next month at the Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills in Michigan.
 
A huge difference, Langer said. Colin, when he plays his best can beat anybody. He can be a tower of strength. Hes been around for a long time. Guys look up to him. You know, that would be the best thing that could happen to us.
 
And also to Montgomerie.
 
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