NEWPORT, Wales – Just as well that Colin Montgomerie has a bit of money in the bank, because he’d probably starve to death if he had to earn a living as a salesman.
One of the ideas behind holding this year’s Celtic Manor Wales Open on the 2010 Course was to give prospective European Ryder Cup players the chance to preview the course where they hope to regain the Ryder Cup.
I guess Sergio Garcia, Paul Casey, Henrik Stenson, Padraig Harrington, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter have other plans Oct. 1-3 next year because they are conspicuous by their absence here this week. Either that or Montgomerie’s powers of persuasion are fading along with his golf game.
In fact, unless the European Ryder Cup team is to receive a major overhaul next season, then the field here is hugely disappointing. Miguel Angel Jimenez is the only player in the field this week who played in last year’s match in Louisville, Ky.
Robert Karlsson, Soren Hansen and Oliver Wilson were scheduled to play but have all pulled out for various reasons. For the third week in a row, the European Tour is facing questions about the strength of its field.
Two weeks ago, the Tour’s flagship BMW PGA Championship was without Padraig Harrington, Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter. Journeyman professional Christian Cevaer won last week’s European Open, and now comes a tournament on next year’s Ryder Cup course with the worst field of the past three events.
World No. 23 Ross Fisher is the highest-ranked player in the field, while Jimenez and Jeev Milkha Singh are the only other two players in the world top 50.
Montgomerie is on record as saying he will use form over the 2010 Course to help him make his three wild-card picks next year. So it’s surprising that more aren’t here this week to try to impress the Ryder Cup captain.
“I would like all the potential members of the team to play Wales this or next year,” Montgomerie said previously. “I think it is very important. The more you play a course, the more you know it. We had an advantage at Valderrama (1997), and it was good to use that advantage. We had been playing the Volvo Masters at that course for 10 years, and the Americans only played it for three days.”
Given that statement, you’d have thought potential European Ryder Cup players would be flocking to Celtic Manor to try to impress the European captain.
Not so, as Montgomerie conceded.
“I can’t insist on any players to play, or the quality of the field,” Montgomerie said at a joint press conference with U.S. Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin.
“I haven’t asked anybody this year, and for those who haven’t played this year, I will be asking next year. I would expect a much stronger participation of Ryder Cup potential players next year.”
Pavin doesn’t have the same problem. He is competing in Wales this week but has never stated any strong desire to get potential U.S. players to play in the Wales Open. However, he intends to get his team over for a visit before next October.
“It’s a little more problematical for us,” Pavin said. “I certainly would like to see my potential players come over and see the course once or twice before the Ryder Cup week.”
Pavin is going to try to get some of his team to Celtic Manor around next year’s Open Championship.
Getting players to preview the course wasn’t the only thing the opposing captains had in common. Pavin said he will follow Paul Azinger’s lead and have as many deputies as possible. He is planning on four back-room staff to help him next year.
Montgomerie also plans to have a quartet of vice-captains to avoid the mistake Nick Faldo made last year when he turned up at Valhalla with just Jose Maria Olazabal by his side.
“Corey is right,” Montgomerie said. “More is better. It is very important to work together as a group to feed off information that’s coming from the course and from the locker room and from other sources.”
Pavin has drawn up a list of potential names but won’t decide until next year. Montgomerie said Paul McGinley and Thomas Bjorn almost definitely will act as two of his quartet but will name the other two next year.
Monty had better hope he has more luck luring players to his back-room staff than he’s had getting his potential stars to Celtic Manor for this week’s Wales Open. Otherwise his chances of captaining the European team to victory are not good.