Colin Montgomerie gives us a clue to some of his Ryder Cup thoughts. (Getty Images)
Captain's Blog - The Race is On
Here We Go ...
Welcome to my latest blog and I think the headline says it all, doesn't it? Eight months after I was appointed Ryder Cup Captain in Dubai, the race for points to be part of my Ryder Cup Team in Wales begins this week in the Omega European Masters at Crans-sur-Sierre. Here we go indeed, the most thrilling year of my professional career is about to get underway……and I can't wait!
It has been a tremendously exciting time up to now and I can only imagine that excitement is going to be heightened over the next 12 months as, week by week, the Team begins to take shape. I'm watching more golf now than I ever have before and from next week, trust me, I'll be watching even more and not just from Europe, from all around the world as European players compete on the global stage. As you know, my mantra right from the start of my Captaincy has been that I will leave no stone unturned in my quest to regain The Ryder Cup for Europe and this is another part of that quest.
It is a great opportunity for everybody to start from scratch this week in Switzerland and a great opportunity for everybody to make that Team, because I can speak from personal experience, it's a fantastic atmosphere and a fantastic occasion to be involved with. It's our Olympic Games, if you like, and I wish everybody every success in their attempts to make it.
Top Drawer ...
It's the perfect game to play with your fourball partners at the 19th hole or with your mates in the pub isn’t it – ie: guess the 12 men who will be in Europe's next Ryder Cup Team. So I thought, seeing as I am the Captain after all, I should have a go too….which is exactly what I've done.
In a secret drawer in my house there currently sits a list of 12 players I think will stand beside me during the Opening Ceremony at Celtic Manor in a year's time and it will be very interesting to see how many I get right. Obviously, I can't tell you the names of the 12 but all I will say is that there are a few rookies on the list and, again, it will be intriguing to see how many of them I get right too.
It is amazing, though, how a year is a long time in any sport, in any walk of life to be honest, and how things can change over that period. You never know, the names I have written down might well turn out to be exactly the 12 or they might not….it's all part of the fun.
However, using my experience of trying to qualify for The Ryder Cup – and I have quite a bit of that! – I think someone will show form, someone will come through. Whether that be somebody in their 30s or 40s, or some rookie that has a sensational year - you just never know.
I moved up myself from 14th on the list in 1990, and not being a Ryder Cup player, to fourth in 1991 and on the way to my debut.
So that type of person, whoever it might be, could progress as I did, learning the game at the same time and becoming better until, in the end, he becomes a Ryder Cup player. But, all I can say is wish everybody, every member of the Tour, all the very best.
Well Done, Alison ...
Sticking with team golf for the moment, I would like to say what a great job Alison Nicholas did as captain of the European Solheim Cup team during the recent contest with the United States in Illinois.
Obviously we, as Europeans, didn't quite get the final result we wanted but I thought Alison handled herself, her players and the demands of the media fantastically well. She instilled a belief in her team that they could win on American soil for the first time and, but for a few putts dropping the European way instead of the American way, they would have done just that. But, as we all know, that is golf sometimes.
I am sure, however, that the European girls will provide formidable opponents for the United States in Ireland in 2011 where they will be aiming to add the Solheim Cup to The Ryder Cup which, hopefully, will already be residing on this side of the Atlantic.
Home Comforts ...
While watching the Solheim Cup, it struck me once again just how important home crowd advantage can be. There is no question that it is easier playing at home than it is away. In Wales, we will have a fantastic advantage being that 85 or 90 per cent of the crowd will be European. I don't feel that myself or my players will need to work on getting that crowd involvement behind us….it will be there already.
European golf fans are hugely knowledgeable about the game and, having lost the last Ryder Cup, to regain it on home soil is very important. Everybody there, every European supporter there will understand that situation and get behind the team 100 per cent. Of that, there is no doubt.
One Step Closer ...
I was delighted to see recently that golf took another important step to becoming part of the Olympic Games in 2016 when, together with Rugby Sevens, it was the sport chosen by the International Olympic Committee to go forward for the final selection process in Copenhagen on October 9.
I was part of the golf party which travelled to Lausanne a few months ago to put the sport's case in the first place and I am delighted that our campaign seems to be working so far – fingers crossed for the final vote.
I won't personally be playing in 2016 but I am sure the players who will be around at that time will relish the chance to be an Olympic champion and have the glory of having that gold medal hung around their neck while the nation anthem plays. I know just how proud having your national anthem played is before the start of a Ryder Cup, and it will be no different in the Olympics.
Of course, golf has been an Olympic sport in the past but the last time it was contested was in Paris in 1904. I think it is time it was back, don't you?
A Tasty Stew ...
Since my last blog we have had the final two Major Championships of the 2009 season and how enthralling they were in their own way, weren't they?
Congratulations, first and foremost, must go to Stewart Cink for his victory in The Open Championship at Turnberry. He played very well on the final day and that must not be forgotten although it most probably has been given the performance that day, and indeed all week, of Tom Watson.
For a man just six weeks short of his 60th birthday to have a putt on the 72nd hole to win The Open was truly remarkable and gives renewed hope and encouragement to us older players who have to compete against golf's younger brigade on a weekly basis.
Tiger Tamer ...
Following on from that, history unfolded before our very eyes in the US PGA at Hazeltine when Tiger Woods took a lead into the final round of a Major Championship……..and didn't win! On each of the previous 14 occasions that had happened he did win but this time he came up against a fantastically inscrutable opponent in Y E Yang who went toe to toe with the great man and emerged victorious.
The Korean, of course, had beaten Woods before, in the HSBC Champions on The European Tour in 2007, but he didn't play with him that day in Shanghai. In Minnesota he did which made his victory all the more impressive.
Funnily enough, during the presentation to the Olympic Committee I mentioned earlier, one of the points we made was how quickly the game was growing in Asia and how, by making golf an Olympic sport, that growth and development could be further encouraged.
Now I'm not saying that I predicted it but, good heavens, within a couple of months of making that statement, an Asian player goes and wins a Major Championship for the first time. It's fate I tell you…….!
Told You ...
Now, while I am not going to claim bragging rights about forecasting Yang's victory at Hazeltine, I feel I must take the chance to say here and now that "I told you so" about the performance of our European players in the final Major of the season.
When I was in the Media Centre the day before the tournament started I stated publicly that I expected to have four or five European players finish in the top ten such is the growing strength and the fantastic wealth of talent in Europe right now.
I know a few people went away from there thinking I had possibly spent too much time out in the blazing Minnesotan sunshine but I was delighted to say by the end of the week I was proved right......and then some!
Not only were there actually five European players – Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer, Søren Kjeldsen and Henrik Stenson – in the top nine, there were also another six – Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell, Francesco Molinari, Ross Fisher, Ian Poulter and Oliver Wilson – within the top 20.
Well done to each and every one of them – it truly was a week which gave me immense satisfaction from a Ryder Cup Captaincy stance as well as from a European golfing fan viewpoint.
Captain Calling ...
Starting this week and right through to the final counting event, the 2010 Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles, there will be increased focus on players' positions within The Ryder Cup points tables and, by association, the tournaments they are contesting in a bid to further their chances.
Although The Ryder Cup is a team contest, golf is very much an individual game and every player has his own private agenda to attend to. I appreciate that and understand that fully but, however, there are three particular tournaments next year that I'd like to have everyone in attendance if possible and, now that I have the facility where I can email the whole Tour as I have done on a couple of occasions already, I'll be doing that again with this request.
The first of these tournaments is the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. I feel every European player that is qualified for what is our flagship event should be playing there and I will be asking for that personally in my role as Captain. The second event would be The Celtic Manor Wales Open. I think it would do them no harm at all as a European if they were to win in Wales….for obvious reasons.
The last event on my mini-list is the final counting event, the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles. To be honest, I don't think I'll really have to ask on that one. I think it will be automatic that in the last event under the spotlight, every player on the verge of the Team will want to be there and be master of his own destiny.
What we must never forget is the fact that this is a European Tour campaign to win back The Ryder Cup. It is economically important for everybody from Chief Executive George O'Grady down; a home win is so important for the economy of the Tour, especially in these times.
So I can only ask for the players to compete to help me get my best 12 assembled at Celtic Manor next year.
Thank You ...
Speaking of the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles, I was delighted this year to return once again not only as a competitor, but also in my role of Championship Chairman to help the event celebrate its tenth anniversary.
I was also delighted that the tournament afforded me the honour of naming my own Elizabeth Montgomerie Foundation as the dedicated charity for the event this year. I started the Foundation in honour of my late mum who died of cancer and in whose memory we are trying, through various events on and off the golf course, to build a centre in the grounds of Monklands Hospital in Lanarkshire to help fellow sufferers of this disease.
The target figure is difficult to say, but it's in excess of £3 million, and so we need a lot of support from everybody.
I am delighted to say we have had that already, even in these difficult economic times, and the support is growing.
The more people that know about the Foundation the better and it's been a superb journey so far. But it will only finish when we have the Centre up and running. I know we will do it and it will be superb when the doors finally open. Believe me, that will be a very proud day for me, and for my dad James too.
So thank you very much to everyone who has helped and contributed so far.
Get Carter ...
Another highlight during the week at Gleneagles was undoubtedly The Ryder Cup Forum on BBC Radio Five Live which was staged at my house and which featured, alongside myself, European Tour Chief Executive George O’Grady, Daily Mail golf writer Derek Lawrenson and Five Live's golf correspondent Iain Carter.
We talked about a lot of issues, including The Ryder Cup of course, and it was a fun evening. Iain tells me we had a lot of positive feedback from the listeners too which is good to hear.
One memorable part of the session was when I took on the role of link man and introduced some of the football matches being covered by the station that evening too.
So there you have it, not only does my CV have 'Ryder Cup Captain' on it, I can now legitimately add the line 'Radio Presenter!' Watch out Iain….!
For more from Monty, visit his official website www.colinmontgomerie.com