Starting today, Paul Casey has the chance to deliver the ultimate Ryder Cup rebuke to Colin Montgomerie by winning the biggest prize in the history of European golf. But far from fearing a victory in the Tour Championship for the player he overlooked for a wildcard, Montgomerie claims it would actually be a boost to his team.
Casey is only one of five in the 30-strong field at East Lake in Atlanta who with a win are guaranteed of scooping the $10m (£6.45m) FedEx Cup jackpot. Providing none of the American quartet of Matt Kuchar, Dustin Johnson, Charley Hoffman or Steve Stricker prevail and finish low-enough down the leaderboard, the Englishman could even finish second and collect what he admits would be "an outrageous amount."
It would mean the teams assembling the very next day in Wales minus the player adjudged to be that season's PGA Tour No 1. Surely such a bizarre scenario would elicit a red face or two, among all that blue and gold? "Not at all," replied Montgomerie, yesterday. "I don't think it would be embarrassing at all. I think it would be a great coup for the European Tour and European golf. It would just prove the strength of my team. That we would have the FedEx Cup winner and he wouldn't even be on our team."
For his part, Casey refused to say the potential $11.35m payday (the winner of the tournament receives $1.35m) would soften the blow he received four weeks ago when Montgomerie chose Luke Donald, Edoardo Molinari and, most controversially, Padraig Harrington ahead of him.
"I was annoyed at myself for not qualifying," he said. "I can't be upset at anybody. I'm not upset at Colin for not picking me – I have to blame myself. Something like the Ryder Cup, I am not dwelling on it. I will watch the TV and I will be wishing I was there, but winning a FedEx Cup doesn't necessarily fill that hole because it's not about that."
While Casey has separated the two events, so too will Montgomerie. Corey Pavin, the United States captain, has nine players to keep an eye on before they fly over to Wales on Sunday night with only Tiger Woods, Rickie Fowler and Stewart Cink missing from the prestigious field at East Lake. In contrast, the Europe team has one representative – Donald – teeing it up alongside Casey and another discard in Justin Rose.
Harrington failed to make it past the second stage of the four-event play-off series and instead is honing his game by playing in the pro-am Vivendi Cup near Paris this weekend. Yesterday, he had breakfast with Montgomerie, who told the Irishman what would be expected of him at Celtic Manor.
"He has been given a wildcard pick and one of the reasons was to make sure he stepped up to the plate and to give him that vote of confidence to say, 'this is your time – you come forward and lead this team on the course,'" said Montgomerie. "Padraig's played five Ryder Cups so it's time he stepped up and I was so glad to read in the press over the weekend that he is planning to do just that. He plans to be that on-course leader we have not had for the last couple of years in the Ryder Cup. That's very important for us."
With Peter Hanson also battling it out for the comparatively minuscule £180,000 first prize on offer at Golf de Joyenval, just three of Montgomerie's men are playing competitively before meeting up in Newport. He admits that is not ideal. "I would rather them competing the week before as opposed to sitting at home thinking about it," he said.