Montgomerie rejuvenated and ready for Ryder Cup

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The Independent Online

No European player has won a major at the last 20 attempts. Unless that run is broken at the 86th USPGA Championship this weekend, Bernhard Langer's Ryder Cup team will be the first not to contain a major champion since 1981.

Langer, who captains Europe against the Americans at Oakland Hills in Detroit in September, is content with the usual underdog tag that has not stopped them winning three of the last four matches.

Nor is the German worried that there would not be a leader on the course in the manner of a Seve Ballesteros or Nick Faldo. "I am their leader," Langer said. "We want to be a team. I am not concerned about being having three or four leaders in the team."

Experience, however, will count heavily when Langer comes to announce his wildcard picks at the end of the month, which means Colin Montgomerie, the undisputed driving force of the team in the last two matches, will almost certainly be on the team.

Langer knows it, Monty knows it, but at the moment no one can say as much. "I've seen a lot of good stuff from Colin," Langer said. "He was in contention at the Open and he's had a lot of good finishes. He is extremely close to the Colin we know."

And an in-form Montgomerie would make a "huge difference", Langer added. "When Colin plays his best he can beat anybody. He can be a tower of strength. Guys look up to him. That could be the best thing that happens to us."

Montgomerie, who arrived here from a fourth-place finish at the Scandinavian Masters, won by Luke Donald, has not spoken to Langer. "My goal over the next three weeks is to qualify for the team," said the Scot. "I've been proud to do it six times and I want to make it seven. It is not entirely in my hands.

"But what is form?" he queried. "On the Friday morning of a Ryder Cup it's whether you can stand up on the first tee, not what your form is."

Currently 21st in the standings, Monty needs a high finish here or at next week's NEC World Invitational to have any chance of qualifying. But just to have a chance after the break-up of his marriage is something the Scot reflects on with pride.

"Bernhard knows it's been a tragic year and that's why I'm in the position I am. This time I might need a little help but I trust Bernhard to do the best for the team. He will have gone into great detail and will have a reason for whatever he does."

It was Montgomerie who tells the story of playing with Langer and the German asking if the yardage of a shot was taken from the front or the back of a sprinkler head. "It's not true," said Langer. "It was a good joke that just spread. Nobody is good enough for that to make a difference. The Germans might be precise but not that precise."

It might be the precision in Donald's game that gets the 26-year-old Englishman, who is based in the States, the other pick ahead of the other contenders, including Freddie Jacobson, Justin Rose and Jesper Parnevik. Only Monty and Donald have won this season.

Hal Sutton makes his wildcard selections on Monday after the American qualifying finishes on Sunday. The four men just outside the qualifying positions, Jerry Kelly, Stewart Cink, Jeff Maggert and Scott Verplank, are the prime suspects for the wild cards, sadly for John Daly and the Wild Thing's fans.

Tiger Woods enters the USPGA without a major in nine attempts but having equalled Greg Norman's record of 331 weeks at the top of the world rankings. Ernie Els and Vijay Singh can both prevent Woods establishing a new mark, while Phil Mickelson will be trying to maintain his top-three record in the season's majors.

It should be a wild week at Whistling Straits, where it was cold and rainy yesterday. Darren Clarke holed in one at the short 12th. He did likewise in practice at the US Open and missed the cut. "Not today, not today," Billy Foster, the caddie he has been reunited with, was shouting as soon as the ball left the clubface.

USPGA CHAMPIONSHIP WHISTLING STRAITS TEE-OFF TIMES

(US unless stated, all times BST)

First tee today, 10th tee tomorrow:

13.00 and 18.15 S Kendall, E Romero (Arg), R Thompson.

13.10 and 18.25 R Philo, T Clark (SA), R Gamez.

13.20 and 18.35 H Frazar, T Purdy, A Cejka (Ger).

13.30 and 18.45 W Austin, J Ogilvie, J Sluman.

13.40 and 18.55 T Hiratsuka (Japan), R Jacquelin (Fr), R Mediate.

13.50 and 19.05 J Leonard, D Clarke (GB), K J Choi (S Kor).

14.00 and 19.15 A Scott (Aus), K Perry, A McCarron.

14.10 and 19.25 D Howell (GB), N O'Hern (Aus), R Sabbatini (SA).

14.20 and 19.35 P Casey (GB), S Cink, S Leaney.

14.30 and 19.45 P Price (GB), B Estes, C Pettersson (Swe).

14.40 and 19.55 B Faxon, B Curtis, S Flesch.

14.50 and 20.05 N Fasth (Swe), C Thomas, B Jones (Aus).

15.00 and 20.15 C Hungate, F Bensel, M Northern.

18.15 and 13.00 I Woosnam (GB), M Hensby (Aus), S K Ho (S Kor).

18.25 and 13.10 T Pernice, L Donald (GB), J Coston.

18.35 and 13.20 J Byrd, C Parry (Aus), H Irwin.

18.45 and 13.30 J Kelly, R Allenby (Aus), F Jacobson (Swe).

18.55 and 13.40 D Toms, D Love, R Beem.

19.05 and 13.50 Z Johnson, J Rose (GB), S Appleby (Aus).

19.15 and 14.00 S Micheel, B Quigley, P Azinger.

19.25 and 14.10 S Katayama (Japan), F Funk, C Montgomerie (GB).

19.35 and 14.20 P Mickelson, B Bateman, T Hamilton.

19.45 and 14.30 C Howell, N Faldo (GB), M Campbell (NZ).

19.55 and 14.40 J-M Olazabal (Sp), M O'Meara, G Norman (Aus).

20.05 and 14.50 H Tanaka (Jap), D Waldorf, Q Griffing.

20.15 and 15.00 S English, M Baker, B Smith.

13.00 and 18.15 B Van Pelt, S Lowery, M Small.

10th tee today, first tee tomorrow:

13.10 and 18.25 R Gonzalez (Arg), T Herron, T Fleming.

13.20 and 18.35 T Byrum, J Kaye, G McDowell (GB).

13.30 and 18.45 I Poulter (GB), J Haas, B Andrade.

13.40 and 18.55 JL Lewis, B Sowards, H Slocum.

13.50 and 19.05 J Furyk, E Els (SA), P Harrington (Irl).

14.00 and 19.15 B Langer (Ger), M Calcavecchia, S Garcia (Sp).

14.10 and 19.25 L Roberts, T Immelman (SA), J Sindelar.

14.20 and 19.35 V Singh (Fiji), T Woods, J Daly.

14.30 and 19.45 S Hoch, S Maruyama (Japan), M-A Jimenez (Sp).

14.40 and 19.55 L Westwood (GB), C DiMarco, S Verplank.

14.50 and 20.05 D Tentis, B Davis (GB), M Gogel.

15.00 and 20.15 M Evenson, M Schuchart, R Biancalana.

18.15 and 13.00 T Jaidee (Thai), C Sullivan, C Petrovic.

18.25 and 13.10 A Schulte, R Pampling (Aus), J-F Remesy (Fr).

18.35 and 13.20 B Pappas (SA), J Haeggman (Swe), C Campbell.

18.45 and 13.30 B Baird, P McGinley (Irl), A Cabrera (Arg).

18.55 and 13.40 P Sheehan, T Armour, K Sutherland.

19.05 and 13.50 D Hart, S Drummond (GB), F Lickliter.

19.15 and 14.00 M Brooks, H Sutton, B Tway.

19.25 and 14.10 C Riley, C Franco (Par), S Ames (Trin).

19.35 and 14.20 P Lonard (Aus), D Duval, J Huston.

19.45 and 14.30 T Levet (Fr), J Lankford, K Triplett.

19.55 and 14.40 J Parnevik (Swe), B Crane, M Weir (Can).

20.05 and 14.50 S Schneiter, A Oberholser, G Ogilvy (Aus).

20.15 and 15.00 Z Zwenke, B Britton, JR Roth.

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