One of the things Colin Montgomerie writes about is how happy he is to have his counterpart, Corey Pavin, playing in the Wales Open at Celtic Manor Resort.
The Captain's Blog: Catching up with Monty
In his first official blog as Captain of Team Europe, Colin Montgomerie touches on a whole host of topics, from old Scottish sayings he cherishes, to players he's keeping an eye on already, to the importance of team chemistry, to the exciting Masters and how special his 500th European Tour event was. A lot to cover, to be sure, but worth every word.
No Stone Left Unturned
Ever since I made my debut in 1991, my Ryder Cup experiences have all been in front of the camera so it is very interesting indeed, in my role as Captain for 2010, to see what goes on behind the scenes. Believe me, there is much, much more than you would think. I have respected each and every single Captain I have played under in the Ryder Cup arena -- now knowing what they have been involved in on their players' behalf, up to 18 months in advance of the contest itself, I respect them all even more.
I got my first indication of what was involved when I made the first of several visits to The Celtic Manor Resort recently and toured the entire complex, the clubhouse and the hotel as well as walking every inch of the golf course with officials from the Resort and The European Tour.
Anyone who knows me and who has been a part of my career over the past 20 years, knows I am meticulous in the way I go about things and that will not change now I am Europe's Ryder Cup Captain. I want everything to be absolutely perfect for my Team ... and, trust me, it will be.
We all know what happens on the golf course is, ultimately, what matters in the end but to get my players to perform to their best inside the ropes, everything has to be spot on for them outside the ropes too. I know how important that is. Back in 1991 I was, as you can imagine, incredibly excited and proud, thinking 'wow, I have really made it, being a Ryder Cup player and all.' Then we got to Kiawah Island and found certain parts of the clubhouse weren't really ready and we ended up changing in a caravan! You can imagine how I felt!
The good news for the 12 guys who will make up my Team next year is that they will have no such worries. We are very fortunate indeed at Celtic Manor that almost everything has been purposely built for The Ryder Cup including the locker rooms and all the other facilities they will need. During my visit we even talked about the clothes they will wear and the food the guys might like to eat during the week. As I said, no stone will be left unturned in our bid to win the trophy back -- everything will be perfect for them -- and I can assure you the priority is to win the Cup back in Wales.
Every Mickle ...
There is a quaint old Scottish saying which goes along the lines of 'Every Mickle maks a Muckle'. Basically what it means is that it is important to consider all the little elements which go together to make up the big goal you are trying to achieve. That phrase was brought home to me once again by an incident during my visit to Celtic Manor.
As I said, we are lucky that everything there is purpose built for The Ryder Cup including the team rooms which can be entered and exited by two big wooden doors. Although they were beautiful, as I was standing there looking at them, something didn't feel right, and it suddenly dawned on me -- you couldn't see who was on the other side.
Now while that might not seem a big problem, imagine you are coming back off the golf course and are just about to put your hand on the handle to pull the door open when one of your team-mates comes barging out of the room from the other side. Bang! The door smashes into your hand and that is your Ryder Cup finished right there and then. Twelve months of sweat and toil to get into the Team taken away in an instant.
I immediately alerted the officials to the issue and that will be changed immediately either by making each door only open one way, or by putting glass panels in both the doors so you can see who is on the other side.
Remember, every mickle ...
One of the reasons, I believe, I was selected to be Captain is because I am younger than the more recent ones and I am still out there playing. I regularly play about 28 or 29 events a year and I will still do that, in fact, I will probably add a couple more to my schedule. In addition, it is equally important that, if I am not at an event, I tune in to the television coverage to follow the progress of the European players and it was great to see so many do so well on the big stage of late.
Having myself been Paul Casey's semi-final victim at Wentworth on his way to victory in the 2006 World Match Play Championship, we all know how good in the head-to-head arena the Englishman is and he showed it again with a fine performance in the WGC -- Accenture Match Play in Arizona. Paul beat a host of talented players in his run to the final before he was eventually beaten by Australian Geoff Ogilvy. Nevertheless it was a fine showing almost matched by his compatriot Ross Fisher who did exceptionally well to finish fourth, beating American Ryder Cup veterans such as Jim Furyk and Justin Leonard along the way -- very impressive indeed.
Then, a couple of weeks later, we had Denmark's Søren Kjeldsen finish tied for seventh in the WGC -- CA Championship at Doral. I know myself from my three consecutive victories at Wentworth that some courses just suit your eye and it is obviously the case with Doral for Søren who finished just outside the top ten there last year.
All three are obviously men bang in form and, therefore, it was no surprise to see them fill positions one, two and three in an enthralling BMW PGA Championship at the self-same Wentworth Club in May. From my standpoint as European Ryder Cup Captain, that was very encouraging indeed.
Returning for a moment to the Doral event, it was also satisfying to see Alvaro Quiros of Spain finish in the top 15 in his first stroke play event in the United States. I have said before that this is a very exciting time for European golf with youngsters such as Alvaro, Martin Kaymer and Rory McIlroy, all potential world beaters, beginning to come through the ranks. It is heartening from a Ryder Cup perspective to have these guys challenging for a spot alongside the core of the Team which has been there for the last two or three matches.
As I said earlier, one of the things we discussed during our visit to Celtic Manor were the various uniforms the team will wear during the week. There were several suggestions and I know the younger members of my Team will want to wear things they are comfortable with and are as close to the normal attire they wear out on the course on a weekly basis.
However, I am praying that Henrik Stenson does not approach me and ask for his, how shall we put it, 'interesting' choice of gear during the CA Championship to be taken into consideration!
In case you weren't aware, thanks to a loose tee shot which ended up in a muddy bog, the bold Swede decided that, to save his pristine white outfit, his only option was to play the shot dressed solely in his boxer shorts!! At least caddie Fanny Sunesson had the decency to look away -- I have to be honest, so did I!
However if he does approach me about the idea, I have the perfect riposte thanks to my kids who use the phrase all the time. "Henrik," I'll say, "Your idea is pants."
Seriously though, Henrik is one of the best players in the world and he showed that with his fabulous victory a little while later in The Players Championship. Since Sandy Lyle won at Sawgrass in 1987, we had waited until last year to toast another European success when Sergio triumphed and so to follow that 12 months later with Henrik's victory in addition to Ian Poulter finishing second was absolutely fantastic for European golf. Henrik's 66 on the last day was a wonderful performance. I know how hard that course is and I think I have only beaten 66 once at Sawgrass in all my appearances there over the years. To do that was really something.
Talking of triumphs, wasn't it wonderful to watch Angel Cabrera's victory in the Masters at Augusta? Okay, I know he is not a player I can call upon to be part of my Team at Celtic Manor but he is a player we know well here in Europe, one who has many friends on this Continent, and one who has honed his skills on The European Tour -- indeed the putter he holed the winning putt with was the very same one he used to win the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in 2005. I'm sure the party was something worth seeing back home in his native Argentina.
While we're on the subject of the Masters, I have read a lot of comment about how bad the tournament was from a European perspective. I disagree. While I admit we didn't have a European winner, there were several fine showings from players such as Graeme McDowell and Ian Poulter who finished in the top 20 and what about young Rory McIlory's final back nine of 31 on Sunday? That was really something. I appreciate the ethos of newspapers is either triumph or disaster, but quite often the middle ground can be very encouraging. That was the case here.
500 Not Out
I have achieved many things in my career of which I am very proud but one which features high on my personal list occurred at the end of March when I took part in my 500th European Tour event as a professional in the Open de Andalucia in Seville. I believe there have only been 16 players in history to achieve this feat which speaks volumes for my consistency and, touch wood, my health.
As always, when a milestone such as this is reached, there are a lot of statistics produced to coincide with it and I was very interested in some of the numbers the Tour provided, largely because I had no idea about most of them!
Everyone knows about my eight Harry Vardon Trophies but one fact which caught my eye was the 182 top ten finishes I amassed during that time which, I believe, is a Tour record. When I was winning the Order of Merit I was always very consistent even if I didn't win a tournament and I guess that statistic proves that fact. Now I have to push on to try and get to 200!
One other statistic which tickled me was the fact that, if you took the total distance covered in those 500 events, it would be the equivalent of me setting off from home right now and walking to Hong Kong -- no wonder my feet hurt at times!
You Can Have Your Cake And Eat It
I received many lovely gifts to celebrate my 500 events, including an engraved ice bucket from The European Tour, but one of the most touching was a beautiful cake presented to me in Seville by my old friend, and the promoter of the Open de Andalucia, Miguel Angel Jiménez.
Miguel, along with José Maria Olazábal, the course designer at Real Club de Golf de Seville, handed over the cake, which was adorned with a big '500' sign on the top, on the eve of the tournament.
It was a nice gesture but thank goodness Miguel didn't also hand over one of his legendary cigars to me too. If I'd been asked to smoke that, I don't think I'd have had enough puff left to play one round, let alone four!
It's A Small World
People often say it is a small world and that fact was brought home to me once again during the Pro-Am tournament before the Open de Andalucia. When I was introduced to my playing partners on the first tee, one gentleman shook my hand and said, "You don't remember me, do you?"
I had to admit I didn't but it transpired that the last time we had played together had been against one another in the finals of the 1987 European Amateur Team Championship where I was representing Scotland and he was representing Spain.
As soon as he mentioned it, I remembered the event because it was one of the last appearances I made for Scotland before I turned professional and I was fairly confident that we had won that day, the only thing I couldn't remember was, had I?
I needn't have worried. The next thing he said was, "You beat me on the 13th hole that day -- I guess that's why I thought I'd be better off making a career in business rather than golf!"
One of the main things I want to encourage with my Ryder Cup Captaincy is openness. I want everyone involved with the Tour to feel part of this journey. To that end I have emailed every European born Tour Member and if they feel they have something to say regarding The Ryder Cup, I want to hear it from them. I have given them all a dedicated email address and a dedicated mobile telephone number so they can contact me at any time about anything they want. All this fits in with my ethos of Team which begins with myself as Captain and George as Chief Executive of the Tour, right down to the last member of the Challenge Tour. It includes all the people who work for the Tour, the caddies, the sponsors, the media team, everyone, the whole European scene, because we are all working for the same cause, a winning team.
One of the main changes I have made from previous Captains was my wish to have three wild card picks instead of two. I was delighted that I got the backing of The European Tour Tournament Committee with this request during the week of The 3 Irish Open recently. This decision will hopefully enable me to get the 12 best players on the course at Celtic Manor next year, but what it has done is give me options. I might well pick the next guy on the World Rankings when the time comes, but then again I might not. Options in life are a good thing -- I have often said that. On the topic of the Committee by the way, I would like to state here and now that we are very lucky to have a fantastic chairman in Thomas Björn. It is not an easy job but Thomas has great authority and all the players respect him -- everything you could want from someone in that role.
Say it Again Sam
I said earlier that, knowing the behind the scenes work which now goes on, I have even greater respect for all the previous Ryder Cup Captains I played under. Similarly, when they tell me something, I listen. I was reminded of that recently when I thought of something Sam Torrance told me earlier this year in Dubai. He said to me that from the moment I was made Captain, for the next two years of my life I wouldn't think of anything else ... and he is dead right. Everything concerning what I do for a living is connected with the two words, 'Ryder Cup'. It is my main goal from now until the match is played and it will take up 100 per cent of my work time. What's more, I am delighted it is doing so.
A Warm Welcome
My wife Gaynor and I are very much looking forward to welcoming my opposite number Corey Pavin and his wife Lisa to Wales this week. I am delighted that they have made the effort to come over to view the entire complex and I am also delighted for The Celtic Manor Wales Open that Corey has decided to play in the tournament too. We wish him well. I hear he has made also plans to tour some of the local pubs in the area. I'm sure he will enjoy that very much and I simply have one word of advice for him -- don't bother taking any money. From my many years of travelling and playing in Wales, I know how friendly and welcoming the local people are and they will be eager to let Corey and Lisa sample true Welsh hospitality which will undoubtedly feature buying the pair of them drinks all night. Have fun!
For more on Colin Montgomerie, please visit his official web site at colinmontgomerie.com