We are no longer underdogs, says Montgomerie

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The Independent Online

From the 18th green at Oakland Hills to an Irish bar in Detroit, where Padraig Harrington met up with his cousin, Joey, the quarterback of the Detroit Loins who also won on Sunday, to the plane ride home, where Darren Clarke was the last to drop, to Woburn Abbey.

From the 18th green at Oakland Hills to an Irish bar in Detroit, where Padraig Harrington met up with his cousin, Joey, the quarterback of the Detroit Loins who also won on Sunday, to the plane ride home, where Darren Clarke was the last to drop, to Woburn Abbey.

The function last night was to mark the imminent retirement after 30 years of Ken Schofield, the executive director of the European Tour, but with the Ryder Cup safely back on this side of the Atlantic - as it has been for much of the last two decades - there was a special air to the celebrations.

Colin Montgomerie, who spoke on behalf of the players, had a simple message. "For the first time we will start the 2006 Ryder Cup as favourites," Monty said. "That is how strong the European Tour is now."

"We play on being underdogs but this was a huge victory. It gives us kudos as players but it is a huge boost for the tour. We have always bowed to the US Tour but we are their equal. This was a young team, apart from me, and we have a great future.

"If I hadn't holed the winning putt, there were four others who would have done. And as Bernhard Langer said, there were 16 or 18 players who could have been in the team. To think we didn't have Fredrik Jacobson, Alex Cejka, Thomas Bjorn or Justin Rose, and there are others as well.

"The Americans play for their country but we play for each other and there is a massive difference. It is amazing how many more putts you hole if you talk to your partner about the line.

"There are two years to work on calling ourselves underdogs, but for now we have to give ourselves a huge pat on the back."

Montgomerie, who was given the 18th hole flag signed by the 11 other players and captain Bernhard Langer, is keen to be captain at some point but should be not at the K Club according to Ian Poulter.

"Colin was there to witness everything Bernhard did and he will be captain at some stage," said Poulter. "But he will have to play again. He will still be in his prime. He is way too good to be considered for the captaincy."

Langer, meanwhile, could also be back playing. David Howell said: "He has to go down as the most successful captain so far with that result but it would appear to be a one-year deal now.

"I can't imagine Bernhard wanting to do it again. He could stick with a nine-point win, relax and concentrate on his golf. He is very committed to his own golf and if he puts his mind to it he could qualify. He is as classy as ever, on the course and off it."

Montgomerie, presumably staying scrupulously inside the speed limit having escaped a charge of driving at 96mph in court in Staines on Tuesday, did not manage to make it in time for the pro-am. But the Scot will today tee up on the Duke's Course in the Heritage tournament along with Harrington, Poulter and Howell.

Monty was not a bad judge yesterday as there were few present for the pro-am on a chilly autumnal morning but at least Howell, who, even deprived of sleep, was out practising on Tuesday afternoon, was fuelled by "that warm feeling inside that we have done something excellent".

Harrington needs to finish eighth or better to overtake Thomas Levet, who withdrew on Tuesday with exhaustion, and qualify for the World Match Play at Wentworth next month, which, despite being expanded to 16 players, will be without Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia.

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