Monty can take rough with smooth to be captain marvel
Torrance says old pal can master last-day tactics to bring Ryder Cup back home
Sunday 26 April 2009
The next time Colin Montgomerie is at a golf-club dinner and a member approaches, maybe he should listen closely to the advice proffered. After all, if the tale that Sam Torrance tells about tactics for the final-day singles is anything to go by, there are some wise words waiting for Europe's current Ryder Cup captain.
In 2002 Torrance was waiting to make his bow as the Ryder Cup captain, a role he had been preparing for since the close of the previous edition at Brookline in 1999. He explains: "There was a centenary dinner I went to at [the Berkshire club] Sunningdale, and I sat next to a member, Bugsy Holland. He said, 'You won't do much better if you put your best out first and the worst out last, that's the way to do your singles order.'
"It never left me," says Torrance, 55. "I thought of every scenario, losing by four points going into the last day or winning by that much, and every scenario led to best first, worst last. If you're in the lead, why sit on it, why give them a chance to catch up, for instance? Get them out there."
As the record books tell us, Torrance – and Holland – were right. At The Belfry, Europe and the United States were tied at eight points each going into the final day, with the hosts having to win the Cup outright to regain it after defeat three years earlier in Massachusetts.
So Torrance sent out his big guns at the start – including Montgomerie first out of the gate – and Europe never looked back. Montgomerie trounced Scott Hoch, 5 & 4, and the hosts won four of the first seven matches, taking a lead that steered them to victory. Europe then held on to the Cup until last autumn, when they wilted in Kentucky with Nick Faldo at the helm.
Torrance took advice from many people prior to 2002, including Sir Alex Ferguson and the then England manager, Sven Goran Eriksson, but will not be ringing up his fellow Scot Montgomerie with words of wisdom before the match starts at Celtic Manor in Wales in September next year. He says: "We have spoken, but it was just a congratulatory call from me, when he was made captain. It's not my job to tell him what to do, but he's a friend and we will talk."
Given the bumpy ride Montgomerie has had throughout his career, with sections of the media and American fans in particular, perhaps it was inevitable that his nomination as captain in January would not be a smooth one.
With Faldo stepping down, many expected his successor to be Jose Maria Olazabal, but with Montgomerie's increasing lack of competitiveness as a player – he didn't take part in Kentucky – the 45-year-old quickly found himself with enough backing to gain the nomination.
It was not a situation Torrance, who sank the winning putt for Europe in 1985, found ideal, but one he feels Montgomerie could work to his advantage. He says: "It's all on his shoulders and he's had a rocky start, which is actually good in a way. Like what happened with Terminal Five perhaps. To me it's the best terminal in the world, but it could not have had a worse start [losing vast amounts of luggage last year]. That put them on their toes, and they've improved it. It's the same with the Olazabal scenario, it's been messy, totally unnecessary. He [Montgomerie] will learn from that."
Montgomerie will have to learn on his feet next year. Having never even been a vice-captain, he will see life from an entirely different angle.
Torrance was a vice-captain in 1999, to Mark James's captain, and he says he gained vital experience. "I played in eight Ryder Cups but learned more as a vice-captain at Brookline than anything I'd learned as a player, in relation to being captain. That was a huge asset to me. But Monty's different, he knows exactly what's going on. He's been in enough Ryder Cups to know what players want and need."
While the first decade of Montgomerie's career was about his seven consecutive Order of Merit titles, the second decade has been defined by his brilliant performances in the Ryder Cup, including the fact that he never lost a singles match.
If Montgomerie has enjoyed the ride so far, however, Torrance says there is more to come. "When I holed the winning putt in 1985 I thought the only way to surpass that would be to win a major. Well, to be captain was a million miles better than the 1985 feeling. It was such a great week, magical from beginning to end." So step forward Montgomerie – and the next Bugsy Holland.
Sam Torrance was talking as a spokesman for Pilsner Urquell, the official beer at this year's Open at Turnberry
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