Montgomerie row overshadows Els' slow return to form

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The Independent Online

Simply put, the difference between the Presidents Cup and the Ryder Cup is that everyone forgets about the former for two years, while the latter constantly produces row after row. It shows they care. Ryder Cup arguments are to the European Tour what oxygen is to human beings. It is when there is a vacuum you have to worry.

So while Ernie Els once more showed he is the man to beat at the HSBC World Match Play Championship, the main topic of discussion was Nick Faldo's public dressing down of Colin Montgomerie for the Scot's behaviour at the Seve Trophy last month. Faldo, the Ryder Cup captain next year, said he was disappointed with Monty's non -appearance at three of five team meetings and his reluctance to support his colleagues on the 18th green.

Now two former Ryder Cup captains, Bernard Gallacher and Sam Torrance, have weighed in against Faldo, saying he should have kept what happens in the team-room – or not in the team-room in the case of Monty – private. Torrance added: "If he is saying Colin is not a team man it is outrageous."

The irony is that if Montgomerie does not make the team, he has offered to help in any way possible and he could yet end up as one of Faldo's assistants. There is no reason to panic yet. And if calming diplomacy is required then the man for the job is the chairman of the European Tour's tournament committee, Thomas Bjorn, whose vitriolic attack on last year's captain Ian Woosnam for leaving him out as a wild card has not stopped the Dane ascending to high office.

Meanwhile, Monty's conqueror on Thursday, Els, yesterday defeated Argentina's Andres Romero on a day when the quarter-finals produced a string of one-sided matches.

Els beat the surprise young Open challenger 6 and 5 and is intent on reasserting himself having not won on a big stage in either America or Britain since winning his sixth title here in 2004.

His opponent today is Henrik Stenson, the winner of the WGC Match Play title in Arizona earlier in the year. The tall Swede has been off the boil of late, not helped by a summer grass allergy that makes the sleep-deprived father of a three-month-old baby girl feel even more fatigued.

Since Tiger Woods is in the same position, with both allergy and baby, Stenson admitted he could hardly use it as an excuse. None were needed yesterday as he was round in the morning in 64 and Anders Hansen had to resort to holing in one at the 10th in the afternoon to win a hole. It got him back to seven-down.

After Els beat Romero, the South Africa-Argentina tally this week is now at 1-1 after Angel Cabrera beat Retief Goosen on Thursday. Yesterday the US Open champion ended the unbeaten run of defending champion Paul Casey, the last remaining home player.

This was the closest match after 18 holes, with Cabrera only one-up. But in the afternoon Cabrera ran away with it to prevail 4 and 3. "He flat-out played better golf than me," Casey said. "You cannot fluke your way to a win here."

Cabrera plays American Hunter Mahan in the semi-finals today after the 25-year-old beat the other Danish Hansen, Soren, 6 and 4. Mahan came to prominence in the summer, finishing sixth at the Open and then winning his first event in the States. He made his Presidents Cup debut on the winning American team two weeks ago, for those who need reminding.