As Europe's most notable Ryder Cup player of the last two decades, Colin Montgomerie's verdict on Nick Faldo's controversial captaincy has been awaited ever since Sunday's worst defeat in 27 years. Bad news for Faldo: Monty says "guilty". And by the sounds of it, there is little chance of parole.
Indeed, the Scot even refused to extend one iota of sympathy to the vanquished leader here yesterday in between his preparations for this week's British Masters. Asked if he felt for Faldo, he said: "I can't answer that question." Then he was asked if he thought Faldo had got the best out of his team. "From hearing from some of the guys and some of what went on, then possibly not." No, Montgomerie has never been much good at this diplomacy stuff.
Finally, it came to the issue of Faldo's already infamous singles order and the façade of Montgomerie's tact crashed down. "The line-up was very important," he said. "Being 9-7 down it had to be absolutely bang on." It soon became apparent that if Montgomerie had been in the team-room (as a vice-captain perhaps?) he would have pointed out it was "absolutely bang off".
"I would have voiced my concerns," he admitted. "It would have occurred to me that unfortunately [Ian] Poulter, [Lee] Westwood and [Padraig] Harrington are our three strongest players and putting them out 10, 11, 12 would mean they might not – might, but might not – be involved in the final shake-up. If they had been playing higher up they absolutely would have been involved."
In contrast to Faldo, Montgomerie would have heeded the lessons of history about the dangers of "bottom-loading". "I would certainly have voiced a comment about Curtis Strange in 2002 when he famously put out [Phil] Mickelson, [Davis] Love and [Tiger] Woods out 10, 11 12," he said. "Only once in the entire history of the Ryder Cup matches between Europe and the US has the match has been won or lost by the No 12 and that was Bernhard Langer in 1991 against Hale Irwin."
Faldo will not be surprised at the identity of the owner of the boot kicking him when down. Although the pair were once Ryder Cup partners – and ironically hugged as team-mates here in 1993 not 50 yards from where Montgomerie was talking yesterday – they have not got along for a while. But what may shock Faldo is that one of his rookies was also prepared to express his doubts. Graeme McDowell was careful to point out that "everything is 20-20 in hindsight" and confessed that he agreed with the order when it was discussed in the team-room – but now he recognises its folly. "Obviously as it didn't get to the last matches it was the wrong line-up," he said.
Meanwhile, in America the mood remains one of celebration with even Tiger Woods, that huge Ryder Cup enthusiast himself, joining in on the party. Paul Azinger revealed yesterday that he received a text from the world No 1 on the eve of the match reading: "Go kick their f**king asses." However, Woods has so far resisted from baiting his great friend, Darren Clarke. "I'm bigger than him and he's got one leg, so he better not," laughed Clarke. The Ulsterman will be one of the favourites to win this event which also includes the defending champion, Lee Westwood. Westwood and McDowell are the only Louisville representatives and the former has plenty of incentive to shake the Kentucky hangover. If he can net the £310,000 first prize he will leapfrog Harrington into first place in the Order of Merit.