Montgomerie continues cup love affair

Click to follow

Colin Montgomerie's first taste of the Ryder Cup left him wondering if he ever wanted to be involved in it again.

The 1991 match at Kiawah Island in South Carolina is remembered mostly for the missed Bernhard Langer putt, the row between Seve Ballesteros and Paul Azinger and the "War on the Shore" animosity between the teams.

For Montgomerie, though, the main memory is of probably the most dramatic singles clash in cup history.

Mark Calcavecchia, Open champion two years earlier, raced to a five-hole lead by the turn and was four-up with four to play.

But then the American's nerve went and his game fell to pieces. He finished triple bogey, bogey, triple bogey, bogey and Montgomerie gained the unlikeliest of half-points.

"I played the holes double bogey, par, double bogey, par and won them all," says Montgomerie.

"It's not a memory you like to have, but it proved what it meant to play for your country.

"We both made a complete hash of it, but I was shocked at how much it could affect somebody.

"He went off to the beach and Payne Stewart got him some oxygen. He was in a helluva state - and I wasn't great either.

"If somebody had said we had to play on I think we would both have replied 'No thanks. Not going. Enough'."

However, it was to prove the start of what developed into a love affair with the event - and now Montgomerie has been chosen as the man to lead Europe at Celtic Manor in Wales next year.

While capturing a record eight European Order of Merit titles and a record five runners-up finishes in majors without ever winning one the 45-year-old Scot has become a cup legend.

He was the man who clinched victory for the team at Valderrama in 1997 and he was the man who sank the winning putt at Oakland Hills in 2004, a point that meant so much to him as his marriage had just broken up and he had needed a wild card for the first time.

If accepting the captaincy proves the end of his cup playing career, as in all probability it will, he bowed out with a win too, beating David Toms at The K Club three years ago to preserve his unbeaten singles record.

Six wins and two halves - starting with that remarkable rescue act against Calcavecchia remember - mark him down an all-time great in the competition's history and his overall record of 20 wins, seven halves and nine defeats left him only 1 1/2 points short of Nick Faldo's record.

It was Faldo, of course, who denied his former partner the chance to take over top spot in that table when Montgomerie was left requiring a captain's pick again last year.

Yet it is not only his golf for which the Scot will be remembered. Controversy has been his constant companion.

My very first sighting of him came at the 1983 British Amateur - he was 19 at the time - and it was of him throwing a putter as he left a green.

"Chuck It Col" was the headline in a Scottish tabloid the following morning and he came looking for the reporter who wrote the story.

Runner-up to Jose Maria Olazabal in the event the following year and twice a Walker Cup player, Montgomerie was fined early on in his pro career for criticising the standard of some of the players in the Moroccan Open.

European Tour executive director Ken Schofield said then he had had enough of Montgomerie's "petulance", but the player's drive and ambition to reach the top was accompanied by explosions of temper at regular intervals.

American fans latched on to that and began heckling him, most notably at the 1997 US Open - one of his near-misses - when he was called "Mrs Doubtfire" and responded by telling them: "Save your shouting for the Ryder Cup."

Then, of course, there was the incident at the 2005 Indonesian Open (it became known as "Jakartagate") when his replacing of a ball for a difficult chip was called into question.

On seeing a video of it later Montgomerie gave his prize money to charity, but the tournament committee of which he was a member expressed their dissatisfaction and Tour colleague Gary Evans said: "The players all feel that there has been a bit of smoke around Monty."

Thomas Bjorn, chairman of the committee which has picked him for the first-ever match on Welsh soil, has had his run-ins with Montgomerie, once accusing him of being "a 40-year-old acting like a three-year-old" and on another occasion calling him "a disgrace".

A television sound technician was on the receiving end at last July's European Open.

"You're here because of me ok - remember that," said Montgomerie, a comment which appeared to shock playing partner Ian Poulter and appalled commentator Ewen Murray.

There is no doubt he has divided opinions, but there is also no doubt that in the Ryder Cup he has been a giant. And it is equally certain that his term as captain will not be dull.