Montgomerie fires up old feud with attack on 'selfish' Poulter

Flamboyant Englishman told to 'make more effort' after no-show at Ryder Cup rehearsal
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The Independent Online

Ian Poulter's ever-more popular Twitter feed may make interesting reading today when he discovers what Colin Montgomerie, his prospective Ryder Cup captain, has said about his non-appearance at this week's Vivendi Trophy. A number of high-profile British and Irish professionals turned down the chance to appear here in the match held in honour of Seve Ballesteros, but the Scot singled out Poulter for criticism.

Montgomerie, who will lead Europe against the United States in Newport in a year's time, believes Poulter should have "made more effort" and "given a little back" after being selected as a wild card for the Ryder Cup in Valhalla last year. His comments are bound to cause a stir as the pair were involved in a heated transatlantic exchange of views in the week leading up to Nick Faldo's controversial selection last year.

Poulter did not bother to travel from America to Gleneagles for the last qualifying event to try to qualify by right, but instead counted on a Faldo pick. Montgomerie let his objections be forcefully known and Poulter responded in kind. Soon the disagreement, played out in the media, was becoming ugly and personal. The European Tour will be praying another row does not escalate. However, Montgomerie's pointed attacks make this almost inevitable.

At the eve-of-match press conference, Montgomerie was asked to go through the six stay-away British and Irish players and after explaining that Paul Casey was still suffering with injury and after accepting Padraig Harrington's and Luke Donald's reasons for competing in this week's $42.5m (£26m) Tour Championship in Atlanta, Montgomerie turned the spotlight on the flamboyant world No 20. "With Ian Poulter, I feel that having not qualified for the Tour Championship, the final FedEx event, and having been picked for the last Ryder Cup team, a little more effort might have been made to come here," he said. "When you are selected for your country more of an effort might well have been made."

Montgomerie then asked the assembled journalists "not to make a big issue of this", but soon afterwards expanded on his criticisms on Radio Five Live. He said: "I feel some sympathy for [Britain & Ireland captain] Paul McGinley. There are a number of senior players not here, and I suppose Justin Rose is in the same boat [as Poulter]. But I just feel that, having been picked as a wild card last time, Ian Poulter could have given back a little bit more than he has this week."

Montgomerie plainly makes a distinction with Rose, as he qualified to play by right in Kentucky. But Poulter may be most interested in the case of Lee Westwood, apparently also exonerated by Montgomerie. A few weeks ago, Westwood gave a very honest explanation for his Vivendi no-show. "It's a sensible week to take off," he said. "The winnings don't count towards the money list and I could play 36 holes in a day. I need my weeks off now at 36."

McGinley revealed here yesterday that Westwood had phoned to offer his reasons. "Lee is the only one who rang me," he said. "I didn't agree with him and I don't agree with him, but I respect that he's his own man and can make his own decisions." McGinley steadfastly stuck to that line, refusing to become embroiled in any recrimination. "I took my view that it's not my job to be coaxing the guys into playing," he added. "I think it should be an honour to play and I left it at that. I didn't get involved."

Earlier, however, Rory McIlroy had credited McGinley with persuading him to play. Following the young Ulsterman's comments about the Ryder Cup in May – "it's an exhibition" – many were expecting McIlroy to withdraw. Montgomerie applauded the 20-year-old for "making the effort to play after coming back from Korea", where he appeared a fortnight ago, and also Robert Karlsson "for coming back after his eye trouble". The Swede has not played for four months after being diagnosed with fluid behind the retina.

Karlsson sums up the attitude shown by the Continentals towards this match. With Martin Kaymer recovering from three broken toes, only Sergio Garcia turned down the chance to turn out for Thomas Bjorn's side. This disparity in senior players makes Great Britain and Ireland the clear underdogs, but McGinley has great confidence in his hungry young pups. He and Bjorn will be "overseen" by Montgomerie as he assesses their credentials as possible Ryder Cup vice-captains. The pair may even wish to take notes about Monty's own unique style of man-management.

Playing shots: Monty and Poulter's war of words

* European Open at the K Club in July 2005. Poulter is about to putt but is disturbed by Montgomerie remonstrating with a cameraman – "You're only here because of me," Monty yelled. Poulter holed, tossed his putter and made a chatting gesture.

* Seve Trophy in September 2005. Padraig Harrington missed a final-hole putt as Poulter was hitting a driver in the practice area, well within earshot. Montgomerie took it upon himself to approach Poulter, who in turn had words with the Scot.

* Ryder Cup qualifying tournament in August 2008. Notable for Poulter's absence. Montgomerie accused him of having a "hotline" to captain Nick Faldo.

* Poulter remembers which side his bread is buttered on in January. "We've had our little ding-dongs, but he is such a great person. As [Ryder Cup] captain, you would perform for him."

Vivendi Trophy: Match schedule

Today Fourballs (Continental Europe names first, all times BST): 10.35 S Kjeldsen & A Quiros v G McDowell & R McIlroy; 10.50 H Stenson & R Karlsson v A Wall and C Wood; 11.05 S Hansen & P Hanson v S Dyson & O Wilson; 11.20 A Hansen & F Molinari v R Rock & S Webster; 11.35 M A Jimenez & G Fernandez-Castano v R Fisher & N Dougherty.

Tomorrow Five fourballs.

Saturday Four greensomes and four foursomes.

Sunday 10 singles.

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