Never mind squeaky bum time, this is squawking gob time. As the race to make the Ryder Cup reaches its critical stage, two of the players in the frame to be named as Nick Faldo's wild cards here on Sunday evening are involved in a verbal skirmish that reveals just how tense this run-in has become. So much for all that legendary European camaraderie.
If they were in the schoolyard, Colin Montgomerie and Ian Poulter would probably have their heads banged together (or at least their sponsored visors). A petty squabble has descended into the bitterly personal and has overshadowed the Johnnie Walker Championship where six Ryder Cup rookies were trying their damnedest to qualify by right. For the record, Justin Rose and Soren Hansen, at two-under and four-under respectively, have had their positions all but confirmed, while England's Oliver Wilson is tantalisingly close after Martin Kaymer missed the cut.
Montgomerie, himself, did his chances of a pick no harm at all with a 70 that hauled him to two-under, five behind the leader, France's Gregory Havret. But it was his rant that was destined to make the headlines. Responding to Poulter's advise that he should "keep his head down and play good golf" rather than make comments about the Open runner-up having "a hotline to Faldo", Monty let rip.
"Nice to be told what to do by one so young and one so inexperienced," said the 45-year-old, his quivering top lip underlining the extent of his fury. "Can you honestly believe he said that? The only reason that we said 'a hotline to Faldo' is because he has said he has spoken to Nick. Has anyone else said that? No. Right then. It is Nick Faldo's decision. Self praise is no praise."
Montgomerie and Poulter do have previous, but there is more to this than that. Like many others here, Montgomerie is angry that Poulter chose to play in America this week – he began the Deutsche Bank Championship yesterday with an uninspiring 70 – rather than take up the opportunity he had of finishing in the top five here to qualify automatically. There was also widespread disdain for Poulter's comments in Boston on Thursday, in which he shamelessly outlined why he believes Faldo should opt for him. This is where Montgomerie's "self-praise" accusation applied.
"If you look at my statistics over the last 12 months in relation to the other names that have been put in the potential wild-card choices, I'm 70 points in the world rankings ahead of Paul Casey and Darren Clarke," said Poulter. "Look at the statistics for the whole year. I want to make this Ryder Cup side. I want to play."
They all want to play, Ian, just some of them are letting their golf do the talking. Clarke is the prime example of this quality and if Faldo was in Perthshire yesterday, rather being in Surrey earning a few quid at a company day, he would have seen just how eloquently the Ulsterman is swinging. Clarke may "only" be one-under but in yesterday's level-par 73 he happened to miss three putts under two feet. Normally, that would set the alarm bells into overdrive, but here, on these terrible greens, that statistic is barely warranting a shrug. "You just have to keep at it and hope that you start hitting the right heel-marks instead of the wrong heel-marks," he said.
Clarke went on to deny that he felt under excruciating pressure. "That's for the boys who are trying to get in automatically," he said. "I'm just trying to show I'm playing well to get a wild card."
Hansen, in particular, was not about to disagree. "It feels like you're playing for your life out there," said the Dane. He still did not appear inclined to breathe easily last night, despite the leaderboard showing it would need a miraculous set of events to drop him out of the top 10. In fact, among the current "automatics" only Wilson should worry, although not too fretfully after he courageously fought back to make the cut.
When he was six-over after seven holes it looked ominous for Wilson, especially as Kaymer was launching a resurgence. But Wilson then conjured two birdies and an eagle at the 12th and Kaymer bogeyed the 17th to see his challenge die. It means the 27-year-old will only fall short should Ross Fisher (currently on level par) finish in the top three and Nick Dougherty (one-under) in the top two. Kentucky here he comes.Reuse content