Montgomerie takes familiar leading role

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The Independent Online

Colin Montgomerie, a Glaswegian who sounds as if he attended the elocution lessons of Miss Jean Brodie when she was in her prime, spoke most eloquently last night of his latest triumphant appearance in the Ryder Cup. "I've played in eight," he said, without adding there would be the certainty of a ninth at the Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky, in two years' time. "Let's hope I have another in Valhalla." Monty, all being well, will either qualify or be chosen by the new captain of Europe, Nick Faldo, for the match in the United States. Either way it does not sound too good for the hosts who used to have the most but are now in danger, even on home territory, of becoming Kentucky fried chicken.

Whether Monty plays at the home of the Kentucky Derby or not, the Americans will not be easily shot of him. At 43, he is still going strong and when the Ryder Cup goes to Wales, at Celtic Manor near Newport in 2010, he is a good bet to be the captain. Players tend to get this honour when they have fronted up on the tee, not only on the European Tour but in this biennial match. Or mis-match.

It never used to be like this. When Monty made his debut in the Ryder Cup in 1991 it was at the so-called "War on the Shore", at Kiawah Island in South Carolina. In the singles on the last day Monty was being outplayed by Mark Calcavecchia but four down with four holes to play, he emerged with half a point. Calcavecchia was in tears, Monty a hero and he would have been an even bigger one had Bernhard Langer not missed a tricky putt on the 18th against Hale Irwin.

In 1987 it was 15-13 to Europe at Muirfield Village, Columbus, Ohio, and two years later 14-14 at The Belfry. At Kiawah, after Langer missed his crucial putt, the Americans got home by 14 1/2 to 13 1/2. If you positioned yourself by the 18th green you were almost guaranteed that the matches would go the distance. Monty has been doing so all week. And from the hardest place, up front.

Two years ago in Michigan, where Europe were captained by Langer and triumphed 18 1/2 to 9 1/2, Monty was the German's field commander and a proven winner. You want points on the board - send out the major force on the European Tour. Prior to this week, Montgomerie's Ryder Cup record was played 32, won 19, lost eight and halved five. His contribution was a massive 21 1/2 points and yesterday he increased it in the most impressive fashion.

Ian Woosnam put Monty out first in the singles and this is no hiding place. Tom Lehman, Woosie's counterpart, also sent out a heavyweight, not Tiger Woods but David Toms, an old hand who had come through the heat of the battle at the K Club with honours. Monty fired birdies at the third and fourth to go two up; he had a horrible six at the fifth but again went two up with a two at the 14th. Toms fought to the death, producing birdies at the last two holes and it was at the 18th where Monty all but finished America off.

The visitors had to get off to a flyer to stand an earthly chance of repeating the drama of Brookline and Toms did his level best. The match seemed destined to finish level when Monty hit his approach into a bunker to the right of the green. He had a long way to the flag which was in a wicked place close to the water. Monty blasted it out to within five feet of the flag. He had faced a similar crucial putt in the foursomes on Friday afternoon and never looked like missing. The result yesterday was the same and the upshot was that Monty stymied Toms' birdie four and emerged the winner by one hole. It was the first ripple in the blue tide that washed over the K Club which had become, by early evening for the Americans, the K O Club.

Monty a future Ryder Cup captain? It seems to be written in the stars. Celtic Manor, the venue in 2010, is building a third course called the Montgomerie and the man himself will captain an eight-man team, comprised of Europeans and Americans, against the Rest of the World in an event called the Goodwill Trophy at Mission Hills in China in November. With the help of Europe and Monty, the US stand a chance.

Saturday's results

Morning Fourballs (Europe first)

Paul Casey & Robert Karlsson halved JJ Henry & Stewart Cink halved

Sergio Garcia & Jose Maria Olazabal beat Phil Mickelson & Chris DiMarco 3 and 2

Darren Clarke & Lee Westwood beat Tiger Woods & Jim Furyk 3 and 2

Padraig Harrington & Henrik Stenson lost to Zach Johnson & Scott Verplank 2 and 1

Score from fourballs: Europe 2 1/2 US 1 1/2

Afternoon Foursomes (Europe first)

Sergio Garcia & Luke Donald beat David Toms & Phil Mickelson 2 and 1

Colin Montgomerie & Lee Westwood halved Chad Campbell & Vaughn Taylor halved

Paul Casey & David Howell beat Stewart Cink & Zach Johnson 5 and 4

Padraig Harrington & Paul McGinley lost toTiger Woods & Jim Furyk 3 and 2

Score from foursomes: Europe 2 1/2 US 1 1/2

Overall score: Europe 10 US 6

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