Captain Montgomerie celebrates with the fans (Getty Images)
Captain Fantastic on top of the World
In a glittering career spanning 23 years, Colin Montgomerie would have experienced few days like this.
By Paul Symes, europeantour.com
The mastermind of Europe’s thrilling 14½-13½ victory over their American counterparts ran the full gamut of emotions on one of the most dramatic days in Ryder Cup history.
The role of Captain is sometimes downplayed, but Montgomerie’s almost flawless leadership this week has arguably been the difference between success and failure – especially given the slender margin of victory.
The decision to incorporate José Maria Olazabal into his backroom staff was inspired, as the Spaniard patrolled the fairways alongside the Molinari brothers, coaxing them through their Ryder Cup debuts.
Similarly, the phone call from the great Seve Ballesteros on the eve of the contest moved many of Montgomerie’s Team members close to tears.
The Captain’s attention to detail was also noticeable, from the motivational imagery in the Team room to the Welsh flags embossed on the bottom of each of his 12 players’ bags.
But arguably his masterstroke was to send Graeme McDowell, whom Montgomerie trusted implacably to hold his nerve in the pressure cooker atmosphere of The Ryder Cup, as the last man out in the final day Singles, in case the contest ran its course.
Nail-bitingly, spellbindingly, it did.
When Hunter Mahan conceded McDowell’s putt on the 17th green at a euphoric Celtic Manor, the TV camera panned to Montgomerie, whose face was a picture of contentment.
Europe’s victory was the culmination of 20 months of intricate planning on the part of Montgomerie, who at all times has sought to downplay his own role and instead talk up the efforts and achievements of his Team.
Having taken McDowell and his tremendously talented partner Rory McIlroy to one side for a pep talk after their desperately disappointing defeat to Stewart Cink and Matt Kuchar in the second session, it was little surprise to see both raise their games for the third and fourth sessions.
Montgomerie had identified the Ulster duo as his key men and, like on so many occasions these past four days, his judgement was spot on.
As Montgomerie rightly pointed out, it was his players who hits the shots. But, whether offering words of encouragement and advice from the sidelines or directing operations from his buggy, Montgomerie – a seemingly ubiquitous presence on the Twenty Ten Course – lived and breathed every single shot.
When asked in his press conference on Sunday afternoon whether he would swap his own Ryder Cup record for Phil Mickelson’s haul of four Major titles, Montgomerie said he would not change any aspect of his career.
If anyone dared doubting him then, there will be no-one doubting him now.