As Justin Rose's challenge for the toughest USPGA Championship of modern times was stalled by thunderstorms here yesterday, Colin Montgomerie was already back at his Perthshire home facing an entirely different personal examination. Is he finished, are his Ryder Cup hopes dead, is the Monty era now a mere footnote in the game's brimming history books?
The abrupt answer to those cruel questions at Oakland Hills was a resounding yes, although when the depression clears of his humiliating exit from the season's final major it will not seem so straightforward to Montgomerie. Until Nick Faldo writes him off, a little part of him will never stop praying and why should it? Granted, a second-round 84 is not the best way to impress a captain three weeks before he is to name two wild cards but Montgomerie was hardly alone in his Michigan misery. Lee Westwood only fared marginally better and he is one of the world's hottest players.
And there is a very possible scenario lurking in the pipes that could just play into the Scot's hands. With Oliver Wilson, Soren Hansen and Martin Kaymer also missing the cut here and generally all playing almost as woefully as Montgomerie is right now, it is entirely feasible to believe that come the Johnnie Walker Championship at the end of this month, these rookies will be replaced in the automatic spots with the players currently considered favourites for the skipper picks.
Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and Paul Casey are all in the vicinity on this leaderboard with the scent of qualification burning in their nostrils. Should they all make it, who would be the likely lads then? Faldo's choices would suddenly become fascinatingly restricted.
It would be a stark dilemma. A young buck? An old boy? Or perhaps one of both? Given that there would be so many wise heads already in his ranks, Faldo might well decide to blood the new generation, although that is always risky on away soil.
Another problem with this philosophy could be the lack of fast finishing men on the lists. Excluding the trio in contention here, there is nobody making a well-timed charge. Wilson, Kaymer and others such as Nick Dougherty and Ross Fisher are all Ryder Cup stars in waiting, but that is what they should have to do, wait, until they can prove they are ready. One of their number may well show in the frenetic run-in to Gleneagles that they are in form and that they should most definitely be taken. But then so too might Montgomerie and Darren Clarke. The latter has already made it clear that after taking this week off he will play in Holland and then in Scotland in an attempt to convince Faldo. Montgomerie should also follow this course.
After equalling his worst score in a major on Friday night he revealed that he will only be playing at Gleneagles, at the event where he happens to be the tournament director. That would be a mistake. Montgomerie needs match time to a) turn around his game and b) turn around his captain. It is Holland or bust.
The whisper here is that Faldo has ruled out a man with whom he has never particularly got on and will not be pulling his name out of the envelope at any price. If that is true – and it really shouldn't be – Monty would be stuck on eight appearances and in a perverse twist, Faldo's record points haul would be safe.
It is a horrifying reality for Montgomerie to accept and one which he was already shying away from as he prepared to leave here. He was asked: "Isn't it so disappointing to see your Ryder Cup dream finish like this?" He replied: "So, I'm not on the team then, am I? Oh sorry, I thought you were Nick Faldo for a second. My apologies."
That should have been a clear indication to anyone interested that he does not yet see it as a lost cause. He still has a few straws on which to cling and today's final rounds could provide a tantalising twist in the race. Come on Sergio, come on Poults, come on Casey. Come on Justin, even, as the Englishman is only hanging on in there by a thread. Anyway, as an avowed patriot, Montgomerie will wish to witness one of the Euros breaking the USPGA curse that runs back to Tommy Armour in 1930, but this time around the incentive to support the boys will be stronger than ever – if he can bare to watch.
Much has been said about the PGA of America's setting up of the course and not much of it has been complimentary. The Australian Robert Allenby said, "They have taken an OK golf course and turned it into a lot of crap", while Poulter was even more graphic. "It's unacceptable," he said. "It's like the PGA slice your throat on the first tee and you have to try to make it round to the 18th without bleeding to death." Not everyone has let themselves descend into such a negative mindset; Rose, for example, is positivism in spikes as he enters this gruelling last day, in which he will be called on to play 36 holes from 7.15am.
His 67 on Friday instilled in him the confidence he has been lacking and at level par he is just one behind the halfway leader, J B Holmes. The American calls himself "J B" as he does not want be connected with the legendary porn star also called John Holmes. Apt really. In golfing terms this is adult entertainment at its most obscene. Saying that, before the Saturday-wrecking thunderstorms arrived there was some evidence that "The Monster" – as Oakland Hills is known – has been tamed somewhat by some much-needed watering of the greens, and sympathetic pin positions. The Argentinian Andres Romero fired a course record 65 to move up to two-over and with a couple to play Graeme McDowell is three-under for his third round and three-over overall. Even an average placing here will cement the Ulsterman's Ryder Cup place. What Monty would give for that luxury.
Catch up with the latest from Oakland Hills today on Sky Sports 2 from 4pm
Third round latest (US unless stated)
Andres Romero (Arg) 69 78 65
Jim Furyk 71 77 70, John Merrick 73 75 70
Mike Weir (Can) 73 75 71, Chris DiMarco 75 72 72, Rocco Mediate 73 74 72
Robert Allenby (Aus) 76 72 72, John Senden (Aus) 76 72 72, Charl Schwartzel (SA) 77 70 73
Tim Clark (SA) 76 72 73, Corey Pavin75 73 73, Geoff Ogilvy (Aus) 73 74 74
Peter Lonard (Aus) 74 74 74, James Kingston (SA) 72 76 74, Billy Mayfair 69 78 75, Steve Marino 73 74 75
Hiroyuki Fujita (Japan) 77 70 76, Mark Calcavecchia 71 76 76
Paul Azinger 72 76 76, John Mallinger 72 75 77 225
Charles Howell III 72 76 77, Bubba Watson 75 73 77
Chez Reavie 78 70 78
Richard Green (Aus) 71 77 79
Louis Oosthuizen (SA) 76 72 81
J B Holmes 71 68
Charlie Wi (S Kor) 70 70, Justin Rose (Eng) 73 67, Ben Curtis 73 67
David Toms 72 69, Henrik Stenson (Swe) 71 70
Jeev Milkha Singh (Ind) 68 74, Aaron Baddeley (Aus) 71 71, Sean O'Hair69 73, Sergio Garcia (Spa) 69 73, Ken Duke 69 73, Angel Cabrera (Arg) 70 72, Brandt Snedeker 71 71
Phil Mickelson 70 73, Paul Goydos74 69, Steve Flesch 73 70, Boo Weekley 72 71, Briny Baird 71 72, D.J. Trahan72 71, Nicholas Thompson 71 72
Peter Hanson (Swe) 71 73, Michael Campbell (NZ) 73 71, Brian Gay 70 74, Tom Lehman 74 70, Steve Elkington (Aus) 71 73
Robert Karlsson (Swe) 68 77, Justin Leonard 74 71, Anthony Kim 70 75, Rory Sabbatini (SA) 72 73, Michael Allen 70 75, Alastair Forsyth (Sco) 73 72, Ian Poulter (Eng) 74 71, Carl Pettersson (Swe) 71 74, Padraig Harrington (Irl) 71 74
Steve Stricker 71 75, Pat Perez 73 73, Graeme McDowell (NIrl) 74 72, Retief Goosen (SA) 72 74, Mark Brown 77 69, Dean Wilson 73 73, Paul Casey (Eng)72 74, Fredrik Jacobson (Swe) 75 71, Niclas Fasth (Swe) 73 73, Ernie Els (SA) 71 75, Prayad Marksaeng (Tha) 76 70, Camilo Villegas (Col) 74 72, Stuart Appleby (Aus) 76 70
Kevin Sutherland 76 71, Steve Marino 73 74Reuse content