Colin Montgomerie took a tour of Celtic Manor yesterday and declared it "absolutely magnificent – the perfect Ryder Cup venue". The breathless Scot then went on to reveal how he is ready to deny any of his players the chance to play in all five matches in his search for "the ultimate team performance".
Whatever the result of the showdown with Corey Pavin's Americans this week, what does seem certain is that Montgomerie is not prepared to fail for not being bold enough. If his decision to inform all his players of the opening fourball pairings more than a week beforethe grand tee-off was unpreced-ented, then so too would be affording each of his 12 men at least one session off.
"I can mix and match my team so there's no need to throw someone in and say play five times," he said. "I can do that because you can throw a blanket over the whole team – that's the standard of our players. Yes, it might well happen that nobody plays all five. And that would be the first time ever. It would make it the 'ultimate team performance'."
Circumstance may force him to revert to the safe and traditional "Iron Men" tactic and he will almost certainly come under pressure from some of his leading players who relish being ever-presents. Lee Westwood, for one, has stated his preference to return to playing all five, after being dropped by Nick Faldo on Saturday morning two years ago and so missing his first session in his six Cup appearances. But judging by Montgomerie's comments, the world No 3 will be disappointed.
"I think Lee possibly won't play five matches," he said, no doubt with Westwood's recent calf injury in mind. "There is a reason nobody in Europe has ever won five points and why only Larry Nelson's done it for the Americans. When you've got four points from four games going into the Sunday you are knackered. You are mentally exhausted and it affects you. I want my guys to go into Sunday as fresh as they can be because that win on Sunday is absolutely vital. It's the most important day of the match."
As with his decision to play his entire team on the first day, Montgomerie is utilising the benefit of past experience. In the 1999 match at Brookline, Mark James famously used only nine players in the first four sessions, going into the singles with three untested rookies.
"The fact that I am prepared to mix and match Friday and Saturday shows the faith that I have in my players – it is total," said Montgomerie. "Looking back to '99, Mark James obviouslyonly had faith in certain players; he exhausted us and OK we got the job done as we were 10-6 up on Saturday night. But it backfired on the Sunday [when the US won the required 81/2pts in the 12 singles]. The reason we won in 2002, 2004 and 2006 is because everyone on that team gained at least a point. That's what we have to get to again. Christ, if everyone gets a point, that's 12 already and we only need 141/2."
Monty could be excused his dodgy maths, as he was plainly excited. While a few of his team, such as Ross Fisherand Francesco Molinari, have been practising on the Twenty Ten course this week, the first players officially check in to the huge resort hotel today. However, it is the arrival of the Americans at Cardiff Airport at 11am tomorrow which is most eagerly anticipated. When Tiger Wood is in town the party will truly start.
It will be only the second time the world No 1 has set foot in Wales and, as ever, the fallen icon is poised to be the most intriguing storyline of the week. Even Montgomerie admits to being fascinated to see how the "new" Woods performs in the team environment which has always seemed alien to him, ever since he was on that losing Walker Cup team at nearby Royal Porthcawl in 1995.
"This will be one of the most watched Ryder Cups of all time," said Montgomerie. "I think the inclusion of Tiger Woods has made it a bigger and better event. Everyone will be saying to themselves, 'OK, I wonder how he's going to play? I wonder how he's going to be used by Corey Pavin? Is he not going to play five times?' It will be interesting to see how he performs and how he reacts to a differentsituation having been picked."
Woods himself sounds unsure how his captain will employ him as he continues to effect the radical swing changes with his new coach, Sean Foley, which have required him to hit drivers in his bare feet on the range at his Florida home. On his website yesterday, the world No 1 not only admitted being uncertain about how many sessions he will play, but also who he will be partnering.
"I've never missed a match [in five appearances] but we'll see what happens," said Woods. "I'm not sure who I'll play with. It keeps changing. I just have to take care of my own business and be ready to play."
It had been assumed Pavin would revive the Woods-Steve Stricker partnership which enjoyed a 100 per cent record at last year's Presidents Cup. Yet perhaps Pavin has other ideas. With five rookies, he might follow tradition and get his experienced men to babysit the youngsters such as Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson. This is one dilemma which confronts both captains. As Montgomerie has six rookies, the teams are essentiallyunknown quantities, meaning it is a result so hard to call.
A personal fancy is for Europe to prevail by around two points with home course and yes, home weatheradvantage proving key. But it will be close and, as Padraig Harrington has said, the performances of the captains could turn out to be critical. In Ryder Cup history, fortune has made a habit of favouring the brave. And whatever else can be said about Montgomerie, so far he is the one who has made the courageous calls.
Lee Westwood (England)
Age 37, world ranking 3, Ryder Cups 6, matches played 29, won 14, halved 5, lost 10.
Most consistent golfer in the world is probably the best Ryder Cup player in the world. The only negative is that calf injury.
Martin Kaymer (Germany)
Age 25, ranking 5, Ryder Cups 0.
Has the major to justify the hype and could well be Europe's premier performer.
Rory McIlroy (N Ireland)
Age 21, ranking 8, Ryder Cups 0.
Not since the debut of Seve Ballesteros has so much been expected from a first-timer. Haseverything to be a Ryder great.
Luke Donald (England)
Age 32, ranking 9, Ryder Cups 2, matches played 7, won 5, halved 1, lost 1.
His consistency and calmtemperament were missed lasttime. Could form potent partnership with Padraig Harrington.
Graeme McDowell (N Ireland)
Age 31, ranking 13, Ryder Cups 1, matches played 4, won 2, halved 1, lost 1.
Will partner McIlroy, probably in the very first match, and has every reason to expect to be a major player.
Ian Poulter (England)
Age 34, ranking 14, Ryder Cups 2, matches played 7, won 6, halved 0, lost 1.
Had something to prove as a wild card two years ago and did so in emphatic fashion. His desire will be just as intense this time.
Edoardo Molinari (Italy)
Age 29,ranking 16, Ryder Cups 0.
The fact he ousted players such as Justin Rose and Paul Casey says much about the older brother.
Padraig Harrington (Ireland)
Age 39, ranking 22, Ryder Cups 5, matches played 21, won 7, halved 3, lost 11.
Regarded as fortunate to get the nod, his three-major reputation, together with his short game, are his big plus points.
Miguel Angel Jimenez (Spain)
Age 46, ranking 26, Ryder Cups 3, matches played 12, won 2, halved 3, lost 7.
With his cigars and love of good wine, he is a flashback to the good old days. Yet he can still hack it with the younger generation.
Ross Fisher (Eng)
Age 29, ranking 27, Ryder Cups 0.
Big-hitting rookie will be ideal for the fourballs. An obvious partner for Poulter.
Francesco Molinari (Italy)
Age 27, ranking 33, Ryder Cups 0.
One of the best ball-strikers in the world, his consistency will drive his opponents to despair.
Peter Hanson (Swe)
Age 32, ranking 42, Ryder Cups 0.
Impressed everyone by winning in the Czech Republic.
Age 34, world ranking 1, Ryder Cups 5, matches played 25, won 10, halved 2, lost 13.
Has been on a winning Ryder Cup team once in five attempts, in 1999. Game unravelled after personal scandal.
Age 40, ranking 2, Ryder Cups 8, matches played 30, won 10, halved 6, lost 14.
Has won four majors and will be making a joint record eighth RyderCup appearance.
Age 43, ranking 4, Ryder Cups 1, matches played 3, won 0, halved 1, lost 2.
Is in the hottest form of his life at the moment. Perhaps his biggest plus point is the impressive partnershiphe forged with Woods in the lastPresidents Cup.
Age 40, ranking 6, Ryder Cups 6, matches played 24, won 8, halved 3, lost 13. Has won only two of his six Ryder Cups, but the man with the quirky swing is still an imposing opponent.
Age 32, ranking 10, Ryder Cups 0.
Never stops smiling, although has had every justification with a mass of top-10s.
Age 26, ranking 12, Ryder Cups 0.
Blew a three-shot lead at the US Open and then missed a USPGA play-off after controversial last-hole penalty. His length will be a huge asset in Wales.
Age 28, ranking 15, Ryder Cups 1, matches played 5, won 2, halved 3, lost 0.
Two years ago he played all five games and ominously remained unbeaten.
Age 34, ranking 18, Ryder Cups 1, matches played 4, won 1, halved 2, lost 1.
The 2007 Masters champion is abrilliant putter and equipped himself well in his one Cup appearance at the K Club.
Age 31, ranking 24, Ryder Cups 0.
Another mammoth striker who sometimes lets his emotions get the better of him. The Ryder Cup has always been Bubba's dream.
Age 21, ranking 32, Ryder Cups 0.
The first rookie to be picked as a US wild card. Quirky swing marks him out as a natural.
Age 37, ranking 35, Ryder Cups 4, matches played 15, won 4, halved 4, lost 7.
Won 2009 Open Championship by beating Tom Watson in a play-off.
Age 27, ranking 49, Ryder Cups 0.
Only player never to have won a top-flight pro event.
James CorriganReuse content