Monty wary of strong Asian team

Colin Montgomerie says beating Asia in this week’s Royal Trophy is a critical step in Europe’s Ryder Cup campaign.

Colin Montgomerie believes that beating Asia in this week’s Royal Trophy in Thailand is a critical step in Europe’s 2010 Ryder Cup campaign.

But the non-playing captain of the European Ryder Cup team that meets the USA in Wales in September, but the playing-captain of the Swedish-dominated European squad that will be teeing off against Asia in the Royal Trophy at the Amata Springs Country Club in Thailand on Friday, is under no illusions about the tough task he and his men face.

Having been well beaten, both by the Americans and the Asians, in their last two international team contests, Monty believes that the best and quickest way of getting his team back on the front foot is for them to triumph at Amata Springs this weekend.

“It’s very important to start the Ryder Cup year with a win and it’s important for European golf to get off to a flying start,” Montgomerie told Reuters in Thailand on Tuesday.

“It’s a tournament we must win. Having lost the last edition of the Royal Trophy (Europe were humbled 10-6), it’s very important for us to get back to winning ways,” he said.

“We’ve been lucky over the last 20 years when you think of our Ryder Cup success. We lost that last time (in 2008), so we need a great start in 2010 and we’re looking forward to victory.”

With golfers of the calibre Padraig Harrington, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Rory McIlroy and Martin Kaymer not available, a good few of Europe’s stars won’t be playing this week – and this against an Asian side packed with most of theirs

It contains the latest Japanese sensation Ryo Ishikawa and established Order of Merit winners like Jeev Milkha Singh and Thongchai Jaidee.

Former World Cup champions Henrik Stenson and Robert Karlsson are proven match-play winners and are likely to be the rock around which Montgomerie builds his near 80 per cent Scandinavia team, its other members being Alexander Noren and Peter Hanson, also of Sweden, Soren Kjeldsen of Denmark, England’s Simon Dyson and Spaniard Pablo Martin.

Monty seems confident that he has the players to win, but he has warned them that complacency could be fatal. Asia must be taken very seriously, he believes.

“There’s some world-class players in my team and some exciting new players coming through – and they’re anxious to prove to me how they can perform,” Montgomerie said, “But the Asian team are very, very strong and we have to be very very careful.

“Asia is the up-and-coming continent in the world of golf, there’s no question.

“We said this 10 years ago and it’s now coming to fruition… the competition is as close as it’s ever been and I expect this to come down to someone’s last putt.”

The 46-year-old Scot said he had looked back at the leadership of the six Ryder Cup captains he had played under to guide him in a period of his life when his focus is fixed firmly on matchplay, which he calls. “the ultimate form of golf”.

“Strokeplay is one thing but there are two very different forms of golf,” he said.

“My eye is on matchplay; on who is confident and who looks as if they can hold themselves under huge pressure when the Ryder Cup comes along. I’m watching everyone this year.

“Can I still compete as a player at this level?

“Yes I do believe so and I want to be able to do that still.

“I can monitor what’s going on around me quite easily and my pairings are set already, so there’s no real worry there.”

The teams for the three-day Ryder Cup-type contest starting on Friday are:

Playing captain: Colin Montgomerie (Scot)
Team members: Henrik Stenson (Swe), Robert Karlsson (Swe), Alexander Noren (Swe), Peter Hanson (Swe), Soren Kjeldsen (Den), Simon Dyson (Eng) Pablo Martin (Esp)

Non-playing captain:Naomichi Joe Ozaki (Jap)
Team Members:Thongchai Jaidee (Tha),Prayad Marksaeng (Tha), Ryo Ishikawa (Jap), Charlie Wi (Kor), Jeev Milkha Singh (Ind), Liang Wen-Chong (Chi), Gaganjeet Bhullar (Ind), Koumei Oda (Jap)