Monty kicks out luvvies and liggers
Ryder Cup captain insists 2010 back-up team will be strictly from world of golf
When Corey Pavin stepped on to the first tee here yesterday and noticed he was not only playing Colin Montgomerie but also the Radio Two disc jockey Chris Evans he could well have shared a joke with himself. "Uh oh," he might have said. "Here's another Nick Faldo. Getting his famous mates involved with his Ryder Cup captaincy."
Later, however, while sat in the bowels of the huge Celtic Manor hotel which will form the backdrop to next year's match, Montgomerie was keen to make it known he will definitely not be following the "luvvies" lead of his predecessor. Famously, DJ Spoony and Nicko McBrain (the Iron Maiden drummer) were invited into Faldo's team-room at Kentucky and were also given buggies and "all access" armbands to mix with the players during their matches.
"That won't be happening this time," said Montgomerie. "There are three team rooms and it's up to me who comes in and who doesn't. There will not be any drummers or drums. No DJs either, including Chris, who is a great guy. But I don't think the players on this occasion will need that type of geeing up."
Montgomerie then went on to explain his reasoning and without naming Faldo, alluded to what he clearly saw as "a blurring of the lines"; if not a total mockery of the Ryder Cup's standing as a serious sporting competition. Faldo decided to employ only one "official" vice-captain in Jose Maria Olazabal and there were players on the team who were known to be uncomfortable with the "unofficial" role played by Spoony and McBrain.
"In my mind the Ryder Cup captaincy is a very responsible position," said Montgomerie. "When you hear about the economic benefits that a home win brings to the Tour you realise that. I will therefore be using people that the players respect – in a professional capacity. It will be golfers, professional, ex-Ryder Cup golfers in the team-room who have been there, who understand. I thought Paul [McGinley] and Thomas [Bjorn] did a brilliant job at the Vivendi Trophy. That is the type I am looking for."
Montgomerie's last comment was merely his latest nudge that McGinley and Bjorn will be named as vice-captains as soon as their own ambitions to play in the match finally fade to nought. Olazabal is singing the same unrealistic tune, but should be announced as the Scot's right-hand man in due course.
That will leave just one, perhaps two, positions to be filled and Montgomerie yesterday reiterated his determination to have a Welshman in his corner. And with Ian Woosnam having ruled himself out, Montgomerie agreed that Phillip Price could be the man. Price enjoyed a folklore victory over Phil Mickelson in Europe's 2002 win at the Belfry and, as a local, knows the Twenty Ten course better than any other professional.
All this conjecture and second-guessing must have been intriguing to Pavin. The American media do not focus nearly as much on the biennial event and would certainly not have turned out in such numbers a full 12 months before the match.
Perhaps, Pavin is glad of his nation's comparative low-key approach. He was furious with BBC Wales for airing a programme a few weeks ago in which they used pictures to show a supposed rift between the opposing captains and also accused Pavin of being "elusive" in granting an interview. Nothing could be further from the truth. However, Pavin had not just travelled over to let his displeasure be known to the corporation or simply for the "Year To Go" celebrations, which are now a staple part of the Ryder Cup build-up as the organisers try to bring sponsors on board and extract every pound/dollar they can out of a lavish gala dinner.
The 49-year-old was also in South Wales to check out the logistics with the PGA of America; where the team rooms will be, accommodation, meal times etc. But he admitted he was interested to see the course, even though he played in the Wales Open in June. So much for Faldo's "bring your waterproofs" closing speech in Valhalla. The weather was glorious here yesterday. "We must pray it is like this in a year's time," said Pavin.
Meanwhile, this exhibition was as far removed from the Ryder Cup as one could imagine. In the nine-hole "match" against Montgomerie and Evans, Pavin was partnered by the opera singer Bryn Terfel. Blessedly, we now know there will be no big noises from the entertainment world inside the ropes come October 2010.
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