European Ryder Cup Captain Colin Montgomerie has plenty to smile about as 2010 begins to unfold. (Photo: Getty Images)
The Captain's Blog -- Here's to 2010!
Like all of us, European Ryder Cup Captain Colin Montgomerie is amazed at how fast time flies -- especially when you're enjoying yourself, which Monty most definitely is. See why Montgomerie is so happy and why he's so optimistic about 2010 in his latest Captain's Blog.
Happy New Year everyone!
The start of a new year is always a stimulating time isn't it, where people's thoughts turn to the 12 months ahead and what they hope to achieve. Now, I don't think I really need to spell out what I want to achieve this year, do I? -- which is why the arrival of this January has me more excited than any other year of late. Here's hoping we all get what we want out of 2010.
How Time Flies ...
They say time flies when you are enjoying yourself and, whoever "they" are, they are so right.
Ever since I was named as European Ryder Cup Captain, the months have flown by and now, here we are almost a year into my official tenure with only nine months left to the day until the first tee shot is struck.
I have noticed too that everybody within our game is now beginning to talk about The Ryder Cup a lot more. For instance, I saw an interview with Ross Fisher on the television recently, talking about how well he had done at a particular tournament and he went on to say that he hoped I'd taken notice. I find that everybody is saying they are hoping I'm watching them nowadays. It is amazing because you realise how much everybody wants to be part of The Ryder Cup and part of a European Team that is going to do everything it possibly can to regain the trophy. As Captain, that is great to hear and I wouldn't want it any other way.
In Good Shape ...
Although I appreciate there is a long, long way to go in the qualification process, at the turn of the year I have to say I'm very pleased with the way things are shaping up. Everyone knows any Ryder Cup Team has to possess that crucial blend of practised experience and talented youth and we have both of those elements at the moment. I am pleased that the wealth of exciting young talent we have in the European game at the present time in the shape of players such as Rory McIlroy, Ross Fisher, Alex Noren and the Molinari brothers Francesco and Edoardo have staked their claim while, at the same time I am delighted that the likes of Ryder Cup veterans such as Lee Westwood and Padraig Harrington have made decent starts and therefore don't have to play too much of a catch up later in the year.
What I don't want to do, and I've said this all along, is use my three picks on people who should be there in the first place. I want to use my picks on people who can supplement my Team and add something extra to it. If we keep going the way we have been going, hopefully I'll get my wish.
Well done Pablo and Richie ...
Although we are barely a day into 2010, the 2010 season on The European Tour has already started and I'd like to take this opportunity to publicly congratulate the two young European players who claimed the Alfred Dunhill Championship and the South African Open Championship respectively last month; namely Pablo Martin and Richie Ramsay.
I have gone on record in the past to praise the wealth of young talent Spain possesses in the shape of players such as Alvaro Quiros and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño and, at only 23 years old, Pablo Martin can certainly be mentioned in the same breath as these two as he is a very good player indeed.
A week after Pablo's win at Leopard Creek, speaking purely from a Scottish perspective as well as a European one, it was also great to see 26 year old Richie Ramsay give a boost to the game north of the border with his win at Pearl Valley. It is incredible to think that Richie is the first Scot to win on The European Tour since Alastair Forsyth won in Madeira in March 2008. Everyone seems to be jumping on the doom and gloom bandwagon about Scottish golf at the moment but there is a young guy who has come through and won an excellent tournament against a quality field, so good luck to him.
...and Lee too!
Before we consign 2009 completely to the history books, I would also like to say well done to Lee Westwood for his truly stunning end to the season.
It has been well documented that I contacted Lee after his narrow misses in the Majors last year to first and foremost congratulate him on his performances and to reiterate that I truly believe he will be a Major Champion in the near future, so it was no surprise to watch what he did to win the Dubai World Championship and with it, the inaugural Race to Dubai.
Lee's performance on the Earth course was probably bordering on the four best rounds of the year all together at the same time. I saw him at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year evening in Sheffield and congratulated him personally which was nice and I'm delighted to do so publicly here too. As well as Lee, I also talked to his great mate Darren Clarke that evening and it is noticeable that, like Lee, he is really keen to be part of this upcoming Ryder Cup as well. It is definitely good to see them both on such good form.
Take a bow, Seve ....
Talking of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year evening, I think it is fair to say that it was a truly special night for everyone of us involved and for the sport of golf itself.
Personally I think it was the best Sports Personality of the Year programme the BBC has put together and one which was definitely enhanced by the wonderful live audience present on the night at the Sheffield Arena. I knew I had to say a few words to Seve Ballesteros before he received his Lifetime Achievement Award from his great friend José Maria Olazábal at his home in Spain but what I hadn't realised was that I had to say them in front of 12,000 people -- that was a bit of a surprise I have to admit!
But it was fantastic to be asked to do it, a great honour for me personally, especially in front of all the people who were on the stage with me. My goodness that really did represent the world of golf didn't it? Our chairman Neil Coles was there as was our Chief Executive George O'Grady, past Ryder Cup Captains and players that I had played alongside, as well as commentators such as Peter Alliss. It was a truly amazing turnout and all credit to everyone for making the effort to get there.
We all realised the Lifetime Achievement Award was going to Seve and we all felt we should be there because he is such an important figure within our game. As I said on the night, we wish him well in his convalescence and we will all keep our fingers crossed that we will see him back with us soon -- if that happens to be at St Andrews in the run-up to this year's Open Championship, then that would be fantastic. Even in not the best of health, Seve's character and charisma still shines through and I am sure you join me in hoping his recovery will be quick and full.
Walk like an Egyptian ...
Since my last blog I have undertaken a fair bit of travel around the globe and one of the most interesting places I visited was Egypt to play in the Egyptian Open. I was helping promote the event which will be a fully fledged Challenge Tour event in 2010 and 2011 with the potential to perhaps go on to become a fully fledged European Tour event after that.
While I was there I also paid a visit to the course I'm designing at Sharm El Sheikh -- the City Stars Course -- and I have to say I really enjoyed my time in the country. The hospitality was superb, the standard of everything was exemplary but, without doubt, seeing the Pyramids for the first time was the icing on the cake for me.
We went up this grand staircase within one of the Pyramids and it was then I fully appreciated that they really are something extraordinary. When you're walking up there you're thinking, this is going way beyond anything we can even begin to comprehend. I ended up buying a lot of books on the subject and filling up my library at home with them and I have to admit I have become really interested in subject as a whole.
There is a lot of speculation on how the Pyramids themselves were built and if you were to ask ten academics -- or Egyptologists as they should be known -- you'd get ten different views on how it was done. Nobody really knows and that is the real interest and intrigue in the subject for me. There are still so many more questions than answers about what went on back then -- it is truly phenomenal.
Way to go….!
As well as walking up a Pyramid, I also undertook a trek a little closer to home recently, namely along the West Highland Way in Scotland.
For those of you who don't know, the West Highland Way was the first officially designated long distance footpath in Scotland. It was opened in 1980 and runs from Milngavie beside Glasgow to Fort William in the Highlands, a distance of some 153 kilometres or 95 miles.
I did the first 21 miles from Milngavie to Balmaha -- a little hamlet on the eastern shores of Loch Lomond. I started at 8am in the morning and got to the car park at Balmaha at about 3.30pm in the afternoon and I have to say, I've never been so glad to see a car park in my entire life! The first 16 miles were okay but the last five miles featured four of them uphill over Conic Hill and then the last mile downhill -- it was so muddy and wet that it was almost as testing going down as it was going up!
But I was really glad that I did it as I did it for my mum's charity -- The Elizabeth Montgomerie Foundation -- and all credit must go to Robert Cook and all the team from the Malmaison Hotel Group; there was 38 of them started the trek and I think 36 of them completed the entire 95 miles. I was also delighted former Scottish rugby stars Gavin and Scott Hastings and former Scottish football international Craig Burley took part -- all of which helped us raise £100,000 in total for the Foundation which was a superb effort from all concerned. Thank you, each and every person who gave up their time to take part.
Good luck to all ...
I'll sign off now and all it leaves me to say is that I hope everyone has had a very Merry Christmas and an enjoyable New Year -- or Hogmanay as we call it in Scotland -- and that 2010 is a wonderful year for us all.
To Corey and Lisa Pavin, Gaynor and I send our best wishes and we look forward to catching up with you and all our other friends at the PGA of America during the year before our final gathering at Celtic Manor in September.
Finally, to all my European players, congratulations on what you have achieved thus far and good luck for all you hope to achieve in 2010. Remember, I'll be watching ....