Monty misses mark on European dominance
At first, it felt like an unusual, late-season hurricane moving up the coast. But, no, the warmth was coming in from Hong Kong, delivered by Colin Montgomerie, a specialist in hot air.
As one can imagine, Captain Monty is still basking in the glow of a Ryder Cup victory. Even though the golf world has returned focus to its heart and soul – the individual glory of stroke play – Montgomerie is not letting go of that stirring European team victory. And why not? The Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor was great theater, and it might very well be his last time in the spotlight, so let him have at it.
But, really . . .
“We have always bowed to America’s dominance. But now we don’t just have Lee Westwood but also Martin Kaymer coming up, as well.”
Forget for a moment that Westwood and Kaymer were outclassed in singles play at the Ryder Cup – by Steve Stricker and Dustin Johnson, respectively – but perhaps Montgomerie would like to run that “bowed to America’s dominance” statement by Tony Jacklin and Bernard Gallacher, Sam Torrance and Mark James, Bernhard Langer and Nick Faldo, Ian Woosnam and Sandy Lyle, Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal. Seems to me those guys might take exception – big time. Maybe they could point Monty to 1985, 1987, 1989, 1995 and 1997, a historic stretch in which the European lads maintained possession of the Ryder Cup five times in seven tries.
You think the 2004 and 2006 European teams – which won 37 of 56 points, in case you’re keeping score at home – felt they “bowed to America’s dominance”?
If the sour Scotsman was focusing specifically on the pending shuffle in the world order, with Westwood poised to overtake Tiger Woods at No. 1, well . . . his kilt seems to be wrinkled there, too.
After all, one need only look at the debut of the world rankings (April 6, 1986) to see how silly his blather is. On that day, Langer topped the world order, followed by Ballesteros and Lyle.
You could say the Europeans packed a pretty good 1-2-3 punch nearly 25 years ago, eh? So why in the name of Henry Cotton is Monty acting like this is all so new? Shouldn’t he be reminded that Kaymer’s three straight wins, while impressive, is not unprecedented. Guy named Faldo won three in a row in 1989 – at the end of which he was still ranked second in the world, to Ballesteros. Lyle was seventh that week, Olazabal eighth.
Again, strong stuff for the Europeans, and it’s not like this was the mashie-and-niblick era, either. We’re talking a little more than 20 years ago, and we’re talking about a circle of players who truly were remarkable and deserve credit for crashing down barriers. Ballesteros, Faldo, Langer, Woosnam and Lyle were “The Big Five,” and their exploits – 16 major conquests and a handful of PGA Tour victories, one of which was a Players Championship – have to leave you wondering what’s so dynamic about the crew Monty is touting.
Westwood might be in line to be the 13th player to be ranked No. 1, but guess what? He’ll get there without ever having won a major championship, a dubious distinction shared by three other players. However, Ian Woosnam in 1991 and Fred Couples in 1992 validated their ascension to No. 1 by promptly winning the Masters; David Duval moved to the penthouse in 1999 and won the 2001 British Open.
Kaymer, should he move to the top spot, can point to his PGA Championship in August. But the others who are leading Monty to talk of a “changing of the guard” – guys such as Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald, Paul Casey, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose, Ross Fisher, Peter Hanson, Graeme McDowell and the Molinari brothers – have combined for exactly as many major championships as Woosnam. One.
Are they collectively a brilliant lot? No question. But in no way are they making you forget about Ballesteros, Faldo, Langer, Woosnam and Lyle – unless you’re buying into this Monty talk. Like how bloody brilliant it was for two Euros to win majors and the Ryder Cup in the same year. Only thing is, it also happened in 1985, when Langer won the Masters, Lyle the British Open, and the men playing for the blue flag wrested the Ryder Cup away from the Americans for the first time since 1957, a landmark triumph if ever there was one.
“We have had a fantastic year in Europe,” Montgomerie said from Hong Kong, where he was back in the play-for-pay landscape, albeit at a charity tournament.
You’d be foolhardly to dispute his words, but South Africans had a decent one, too (Louis Oosthuizen at the British Open, Tim Clark at the Players Championship and Ernie Els twice on the PGA Tour), and it’s not like some Americans (Stricker, with two more wins; Jim Furyk, three wins and the FedEx Cup title; Phil Mickelson, a third Masters) were shaken into thinking they should regain their amateur status.
Is it noteworthy that Westwood will move atop the world order? Most definitely. After all, Woods has been firmly entrenched there since the feathery gave way to the gutta. But as fine a player as Westwood is, you could suggest an asterisk be affixed. If there is a “changing of the guard,” as Monty huffs, it’s because the man standing guard, Woods, wandered from his post, his world turned upside down by self-inflicted turmoil.
Let’s not get silly here. Westwood’s upward move in no way equals that of Vijay Singh back in 2004 when the Big Fijian simply outplayed Woods with a massive effort: nine wins, including his third major title. Singh made his move with cannon blasts; Westwood has made his with silent precision while the man on guard turned his back.
In the long run, it matters very little who is No. 1, or have we not forgotten that even Tom Lehman quietly ascended to the top spot for one week in 1997? Whether it’s Westwood or Kaymer or Mickelson or even back to Woods, it will remain infinitely more intriguing as to who wins the Masters, the U.S. Open, the British Open and the PGA Championship. To validate that notion, ask Westwood if he’d trade his 2010 season – complete with the No. 1 ranking – for Oosthuizen’s, which includes a Claret Jug.
What is important is to brush aside Captain Monty’s blather about Europeans always bowing to American dominance and this changing-of-the-guard nonsense. It’s disrespectful to the dynamic Europeans who more than 20 years ago changed the face of world golf and made possible the opportunities and the riches that now flow to their countrymen.
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A landslide for Rickie: If you’re thinking that Rickie Fowler’s dynamic finish in the singles session of the Ryder Cup – four straight birdies to salvage a crucial half point – validated captain Corey Pavin, you’re only partly correct. It’s more accurate to say it showed that players knew their stuff.
According to a source close to the team, Pavin asked team members to voice their suggestion as to a final captain’s pick. (It was widely understood that Woods, Stewart Cink and Zach Johnson were locks.) The overwhelming choice was Fowler.
“Rickie ought to take great pride in that,” said the source.
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Man of the match: Oh, if only Ryder Cup points were for sale at Monday’s farewell party at Celtic Manor, the Americans would have romped. That’s because the European players lost a lot of money backing Hanson in a winner-take-all ping-pong match against the American candidate.
“The Euros had no idea just how great a player Matt Kuchar was,” said one of those who was in the room as both Team U.S.A. and Team Europe joined forces for a celebration. “At one point, there were thousands of pounds on the table.”
It all went into U.S. hands, too.
Unfortunately, none of it could be exchanged for even a half point.