Proud Monty seizes his moment
Colin Montgomerie said it with great feeling: This is without question the proudest moment of my golfing career.
Colin Montgomerie puffed out his chest, jutted his jaw, put on his most earnest expression and, before introducing his Ryder Cup team, announced: “This is without question the proudest moment of my golfing career.”
Monty had been rehearsing the moment for months so it was hardly surprising he did not put a foot wrong throughout a Ryder Cup opening ceremony laden with emotion.
The same could not be said for United States captain Corey Pavin who experienced one of those blooper moments, omitting the name of Stewart Cink when introducing his line-up to the crowd at Celtic Manor.
Cink remained seated and the faux-pas had to be pointed out to Pavin – who, it should be said, saved the situation with enough grace and humour to come out well and not too far behind Monty in the motivational stakes.
The opening speech had preyed on Montgomerie’s mind for months.
His avowed intention was to send his team from the stage surrounding the 18th green with a psychological advantage, one they could take into tomorrow morning’s fourballs when Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer will take on Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson.
That he managed with some aplomb as he told Europe’s six rookies in particular: “There is nothing to compare with standing on the first tee. It is an atmosphere which is indescribable. It is golf’s greatest contest.
“You know your name will be written into the rich history of the Ryder Cup forever.”
And you sensed that, at last, this was Montgomerie’s time. His career to date has seen him claim eight European Order of Merits as well as rise to a high of No.2 in the world, but he has never won the major which would have conferred immortality.
This weekend offers him a place in golf’s hall of legends.
True, he insists he takes no personal glory from his superb playing record in the Ryder Cup in which he has amassed 23.5 points, only 1.5 short of Nick Faldo’s record.
But he loves this tournament like Pele loved scoring goals and Ian Botham bashing the Aussies.
The title of ‘Ryder Cup winning captain,’ would give him the warmest of glows in his dotage.
That is why he wanted to get his opening speech right. That is why his preparations have been so meticulous.
There was another reason, too, much of it surrounding the shambolic opening speech given two years ago by Faldo.
Faldo was widely criticised for rambling on about his family, giving rookie Soren Hansen the wrong name (Soren Stenson), asking Ulsterman Graeme McDowell whether he was from the north or the south and saying that Padraig Harrington had hit more practice shots than there are potatoes in Ireland.
Faldo’s speech was a train wreck. An embarrassment. Montgomerie could hardly fail to improve on that.
Whether Montgomerie’s performance can give Europe a tangible advantage, however, is debatable.
Inspiring words do not make the ball go straighter. They do not make the putts drop. But at least if Europe go down 6.5 to 1.5 on the opening day, as they did two years ago, they will not be able to blame the captain’s speech.
Monty, thank heavens, did not do a Faldo at an opening ceremony packed with warmth and Welshness, from Welsh male voice choir ‘Only Men Aloud’ to Katherine Jenkins, to Sara Kempe to Rhydian Roberts, the latter a runner-up from the X-Factor in 2007. You remember, the one with a blond shock of hair and an eccentric manner.
To lend a European feel there was also on hand Jose Manuel Barosso, president of the European commission, although it is a safe bet his actual role was a mystery to most golf fans from either side of the Atlantic.
And amid the United States wives was Amy Mickelson, the wife of Phil who continues to battle breast cancer and who had flown in earlier in the morning.
For those on Tiger Woods watch it should be noted that he received the biggest cheer of all the American players, although the clapometer overall reserved its highest numbers for Europe’s Rory McIlroy. What a pity the crowd will be denied the duel they wanted most tomorrow morning.
No matter, Europe have no excuses. Montgomerie has set it up nicely with a generosity of spirit which did sport proud.
As he said: “May the best team win for whatever the result the true winner of the Ryder Cup will aways be the game of golf.”
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