Golf: Cup captaincy can wait says Montgomerie

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The Independent Online
Colin Montgomerie believes that Europe's golf authorities should delay naming their Ryder Cup captain until just weeks before the event in the United States in 1999. The Scot believes that is the only way to get the best man at Brookline, Boston.

"There's no reason why we can't delay the decision for months," Montgomerie said yesterday. "We don't need a captain until the event starts. Why do we need one during the qualification system? He won't tell us what to do at that stage. There's no rush.

"We don't have the likes of a Hale Irwin, a Ben Crenshaw or Tom Kite. The Americans have a choice of 10 or 12 of that type of character.

"And while Sam Torrance and Mark James spring to mind, they want to play. It's a terrible thing to take the captaincy and possibly accept that means you're finished as a player. You could tell it hurt Seve Ballesteros. He still wanted to play."

Ballesteros, who led Europe to victory in his home country of Spain in September, has ruled himself out as captain next time, as has Bernhard Langer.

Montgomerie wants a system where the likes of Torrance and James could try to qualify as a player but if they did not, could then take on the reins of the captaincy. The Scot sees himself taking on the role in around eight years' time but first his main aim is to win that elusive major.

Having just won his fifth successive European Order of Merit at the age of 34, he maintains he has finally come to terms with his reputation as the man with the shortest fuse in golf.

"I'm learning the hard way that nobody has played the perfect game of golf yet and know I never will," Montgomerie said.

"Nowadays, if I miss a putt, I miss one. We're all human and I know I can possibly win a major with 90 per cent of my game. Players have won majors making mistakes. I can three-putt a green and win a major. I almost have done.

"I used to get upset with myself as I knew I could do better. I just have to accept the bad with the good, which I am doing as I get older."

Whatever he achieves personally, Montgomerie believes golf has a money- laden future as Tiger Woods takes the sport to the level of American baseball and basketball, where the likes of Michael Jordan earn pounds 100m a year.

"There's only one guy in that league at present and that's Woods," Montgomerie said. "But we are all likely to benefit from his success and with US Tour Commissioner Tim Fincham trying to get golfers to earn the same as other top US stars, you'll see a lot more $1m first prizes in future."

Montgomerie, who won the European Order of Merit for the fifth successive time this year, has the chance of the first $1m (pounds 620,000) prize of 1998 when he faces the South African Ernie Els in the semi-finals of the Andersen Consulting Challenge in Phoenix on 3 January.