The Captain's Blog - Number Nine

European Ryder Cup Captain Colin Montgomerie welcomes us to the latest in his series of blogs.

Sarah Gwynn, European Tour Editorial Staff

 European Ryder Cup Captain Colin Montgomerie welcomes us to the latest in his series of blogs. We catch up with his extensive travel schedule, reflect on a Chinese engagement with his fellow counterpart Corey Pavin, and continue his own look back at his Ryder Cup career – with this time the focus being the 1995 match at Oak Hill.

Good to be back.......
Welcome everyone to my latest blog and it is good to be back......literally! As with a lot of people across the world, I was caught up last week in the flight chaos which followed the eruption of that volcano in Iceland. Following my trip to China and Vietnam, I was due to fly home but ended up in Dubai for a couple of days while the situation cleared. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are worse places in the world to be stuck than Dubai but it is always nice to get back home isn’t it? After a few days in Scotland, I am now back on the road for a couple of weeks - in Seville for this week’s Spanish Open and then Turin next week for the BMW Italian Open.

Broadening the mind.....
As I told you in my last blog, the reason I was in Vietnam was to open the newest golf course in my portfolio, the Montgomerie Links in Denang. It is always exciting when a course opens up that has your name on it and it was a fantastic occasion. I am truly proud of the course I have managed to create there in the China Beach area of the country. I hope a lot of people manage to go and play it over the next few years. A lot of people say to me that they don’t know how I can be bothered with all the travel I undertake and indeed have undertaken over the past 23 years as a professional golfer. My answer to them is always the same though – I love it. I have always looked forward to travelling and you can learn so much from it, far more than you will ever learn in a classroom – it truly broadens the mind. It has been a fantastic benefit to me and I look forward to doing more over the years to come.

Consistent in China.....
Before then, I was in China of course to compete in the Volvo China Open at the Jinji Lake Golf Club in Suzhou. I have always enjoyed competing in China over the years and indeed have had success in the country in the past. No silverware for me this time round but I was pleased to play all four rounds and I was particularly pleased with my second round 68 which exhibited many elements of the consistency in my game that I have been looking for of late.

Hey old buddy.....
It was good to catch up with a lot of people in China but one person who received a particularly warm handshake on the first tee was, of course, my American counterpart in The Ryder Cup, Corey Pavin. It was his first time competing on mainland China and it was nice that we played the first two rounds together. I know he enjoyed the week as he too, like me, made the cut and played all four days. As well as playing together on Thursday and Friday, we also joined forces with Chinese golfing star Zhang Lian-wei to plant three Sweet Olive trees as part of the host club’s commitment to environmental sustainability. Throughout my golf course design work, environmental considerations are always at the forefront of my thoughts and so I was delighted to take part in this initiative.

Ryder Cup reach.....
As I have said in the past, the influence and the reach of The Ryder Cup never ceases to amaze me and I was given further evidence of that during the week in China. Remember, here were Corey and myself, an American and a Brit, talking about an event which does not involve anyone from Asia – yet the interest there was huge. It just goes to show how global The Ryder Cup has become. As golf is now an Olympic sport, it will continue to boom in China and in Asia as a whole and that can only be good for our game.

Clothes maketh the man (and woman!).......
With only five months to go to The Ryder Cup, the finishing touches are being put to all our uniforms and clothing and I want to take this opportunity to thank all the people who have worked so hard for myself and Gaynor in every aspect of the clothing that the Team, Officials and Partners will wear during the week in Wales.
It was an interesting design challenge as the temperatures will be cooler than last time out in Valhalla so with both Glenmuir for our playing wear and ProQuip for our waterproofs, we have gone for a more autumnal look with optional layers to wear in case it is very cold. For our formal wear, Canali have been excellent in creating a range of outfits for us to appear in at events such as the Opening and Closing Ceremonies and the Gala Dinner, while we were also delighted to welcome Bushnell recently to our range of Preferred Suppliers to the Team and they will provide us with laser rangefinders, binoculars and sunglasses. Level 4 have been superb in the design of the golf bag and all the accessories you can think of, while I know, from Gaynor, that she has loved working with Paul Costelloe and his team in producing a range of outfits for the wives and partners to wear and feel comfortable in for the week. A big thank you to one and all.

It’s in the Bag.....
Talking of the our golf bag, I have to thank my caddie Jason Hempleman who has worked hard with me alongside the guys from Level 4 to provide the best looking and most practical golf bag I have ever seen. It is a very special item and every member of my Team should be very proud to own it. They all take them away after The Ryder Cup and it is theirs to do with as they see fit. I know a lot of guys auction them off for charity and, although I have done a lot for charity myself over the years, auctioning my Ryder Cup bag has never been a thing I have done. I just feel they are such special mementos and I have all eight of mine in a trophy display cabinet at home. I will be delighted to add the ninth one to that come October because, don’t forget, the Captain gets one too!

Well done Phil.....
First and foremost, let me offer my own personal congratulations to Phil Mickelson on his wonderful triumph at Augusta National. Phil and his family have been going through tough times off the course in the last few months but their unity and strength is getting them through it, factors which were for all to see moments after he sank the winning putt. As for the European contingent, Lee Westwood performed superbly on the course and handled himself impeccably off of it. Having been third, third and now second in the last three Major Championships, it simply cannot be long before he wins one and, what is more, he will truly deserve it when it does happen. Following his victory in the Accenture Match Play, Ian Poulter showed up well once again on American soil to finish tenth while I must also recognise the performance of young Italian Matteo Manassero who became the youngest player in history to win the Silver Cup as leading amateur in the Masters. The 2010 Ryder Cup might have come a little too soon for young Matteo but I bet future European Captains will have him in their sights.

......and Tiger
Finishing up on the Masters, it was great for everyone involved in the game to see Tiger Woods back in action. Being the fearsome competitor he is, I know he was disappointed not to have won but he did well and, particularly in the earlier rounds, showed glimpses of the genius that he is on the golf course. Understandably he was not quite match-fit, to use a football analogy, but that will come back the more he competes.


Ryder Reminiscences
In my last two blogs I looked at my debut at Kiawah Island in 1991 and my first home match at The Belfry in 1993. Of course, the only thing missing from both of those occasions was a victory but that was soon to be put right in unforgettable circumstances at Oak Hill Country Club in New York State in 1995.

1995.....Triumph at Last
Having come so close to victory in my first two Ryder Cup appearances, I was desperate to try and put that right in 1995 but before all that unfolded, the main thing I recall about Oak Hill was the fact I had to hit the very first tee shot of the entire contest for the first time. As professional golfers, we are all faced with pressure situations from time to time but, believe me, the pressure facing the first shot in a Ryder Cup is as intense as it gets.
Nick Faldo and I were paired, ironically, against my opposite Captain this year Corey Pavin and the man who will be one of his assistants at Celtic Manor, Tom Lehman. It was the third Ryder Cup in a row that I had played Corey and was keen to add to my two earlier victories. Of course, in Ryder Cup tradition, the guests always have the honour on the first tee and Nick, in his infinite wisdom, decided that it was my tee shot! We had practiced together well and it was going okay and I was using my driver off the first tee but Nick said he felt it was a three wood so we went with that. For those of you who understand the game, a driver is much easier to hit off the first tee when you are not breathing! – but I teed the ball down, had a practice swing and thankfully, managed to make contact, which is all you can really ask for in those situations. Nick and I played well but Corey and Tom edged out a victory on the last green thanks to Corey’s superb holed chip shot down the putting surface from the back of the green. That was a little disappointing although Nick and I did get a point on the board in the Saturday morning foursomes, beating Curtis Strange and Jay Haas by 4 and 2.
We trailed 9-7 going into the singles and, realistically, no-one outside our Team Room thought we had a chance but, collectively, we produced a truly superb Sunday showing, one of the most remarkable in history. I did my bit by beating Ben Crenshaw 3 and 1 while there were five other victories and Woosie halved with Fred Couples before it came down to Irishman Philip Walton against Jay Haas. I will never forget the scenes of sheer unadulterated joy amongst our group when Philip’s putt disappeared below ground.
While personally thrilled, I was also particularly delighted for my fellow Scot and Captain Bernard Gallacher. Bernard was very popular amongst all the players and we were delighted the Ryder Cup Committee gave him another chance to triumph following our narrow defeats in 1991 and 1993.
Talking of Captains, next time I will talk about one of the most extraordinary captaincy performances anyone has seen in any Ryder Cup – Seve at Valderrama in 1997.

Thanks for reading and, until next time, I wish you all good health and good golf.

Colin Montgomerie

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