Monty shrugs off Osaki warning

Colin Montgomerie is confident his decision to feature as a playing captain at this week’s Royal Trophy will not backfire.

Colin Montgomerie is confident his decision to feature as a playing captain at this week’s Royal Trophy will not backfire.

The Scot will lead the European team in Thailand as they seek to regain the trophy they surrendered to Asia for the first time 12 months ago with a 10-6 defeat.

Montgomerie will also skipper Europe later in the year when they face America in the Ryder Cup, although he has already insisted there is no chance of him featuring as a player, even if he were to qualify for the team.

But the 46-year-old is looking forward to playing his part this week and has played down claims from Asian counterpart Naomichi ‘Joe’ Osaki that he could struggle to carry off his dual role.

“When I heard that the games were just one game per day it made it possible (to play) but when you have two matches and 36 holes in a day it becomes impossible to try and fit in the scheduling,” Montgomerie explained ahead of the first day of action at the Amata Spring Country Club on Friday.

“With one match a day it is possible to captain and play in the team and it means I am at very close quarters to watch my team players and see what will happen not just here, but of course later in the year.”

Indeed, with former Ryder Cuppers Henrik Stenson and Robert Karlsson in his team and hopefuls such as Alexander Noren, Simon Dyson and Soren Kjeldsen also competing, the Scot feels this week will provide him with vital information ahead of October’s match with the States at Celtic Manor.

“It is a very important year for European golf in 2010 culminating in the Ryder Cup in October,” he continued.

“We have a great wealth of talent in Europe, more so than I have ever witnessed in my career.

“This (the Royal Trophy) is a very good preparation for us in many ways to see how our top players are playing early on in the year while it gives me a great opportunity to witness how they are preparing for (the Ryder Cup) at the end of the year.

“We have seven possibilities here this week to show off their skills and we look forward trying to regain the Royal Trophy against a very strong Asian team.”

Montgomerie believes a strong performance from Europe on the opening day will be crucial in building up momentum for the remainder of the tournament.

With the competition similar to the Ryder Cup in that it features foursomes, four-ball and singles matches, it gives Montgomerie the ideal test ahead of the showdown with United States at Celtic Manor in October.

And the eight-time Order of Merit winner believes it is crucial Europe do not find themselves trailing Asia heading into the weekend.

“The Friday here and at the Ryder Cup is the most important day to get some momentum going, take the lead and retain that,” said Montgomerie.

“To fight back from a deficit is extremely difficult these days, especially with the quality both here and at the Ryder Cup.

“The captain’s decisions are most important on the first two days with regards to the pairings. It is my job to get the team playing as a team on the first two days.”

Montgomerie has paired himself with Spain’s Pablo Martin for tomorrow’s foursomes and they will be up against Japanese duo Koumei Oda and teenage starlet Ryo Ishikawa.

Ishikawa enjoyed a superb 2009 season during which he won four tournaments and climbed to number 30 in the world, and Montgomerie has likened the 18-year-old to one of Europe’s most promising rising stars.

“We have someone in Europe in Rory McIlroy who is a very exciting prospect and you have someone here in Asia who is on that level,” he added.

“It is very exciting to have Ryo playing in the Royal Trophy this year and I look forward to playing against him and relish the challenge.”

As well as Ishikawa, the Asia team features four other players who were part of last year’s winning side while Naomichi ‘Joe’ Ozaki returns as captain.

The 53-year-old Ozaki is confident his team has what it takes to stage a successful defence of the trophy.

“I feel more and more comfortable because many of my players have experience of the Royal Trophy and they each know how to play,” he said.

“I don’t have to tell them anything. They know what to do.”

The draw for Friday’s opening round of foursomes at the Amata Springs CC in Bangcock, Thailand, is: (11am local time start, 4am BST):

Ryo Ishikawa/Koumei Oda (Jpn/Jpn) v Colin Montgomerie/Pablo Martin (Sco/Spa)

Jeev Milkha Singh/Gaganjeet Bhullar (Ind/Ind) v Peter Hanson/Soren Kjeldsen (Swe/Den)

Charlie Wi/Liang Wen-chong (Kor/Chn) v Robert Karlsson/Alexander Noren (Swe/Swe)

Prayad Marksaeng/Thongchai Jaidee (Tha/Tha) v Simon Dyson/Henrik Stenson (Eng/Swe)