Colin Montgomerie seizes Ryder Cup initiative
The Ryder Cup does not start until a week tomorrow, but already the European team knows exactly who will be playing with who in the critical opening fourballs.
Colin Montgomerie has tossed aside 83 years of captaincy convention by informing his men of the Friday morning line-up well before they arrive at the scene of the biennial dust-up.
Montgomerie made this surprising admission here on the eve of the Vivendi Cup yesterday. He was at Golf De Joyenval, a course on the outskirts of Paris, ostensibly as an ambassador for the event.
But all the talk centred on next week's showdown at Celtic Manor and, in particular, Monty's unprecedented move.
The Scot confessed the earliest he ever discovered his partner was on the Wednesday, 48 hours before.
Considering he played on eight Ryder Cups, this surely proves the boldness of his tactic.
“I go against all that about telling the team two hours beforehand whether they are in or not,” said Montgomerie, in a marked reference to a certain Italian manager of the England football team. “Barring, of course, accidents or illness or a complete lack of comfort of the position they are in, they know the Friday fourballs — and that's important to them.”
Montgomerie claimed to have spoken to all 12 members of the side and emphasised the players had plenty of input in his decision.
“This is not a dictatorship,” he said. “I would never instruct anybody, ‘you're playing with him' — never.”
Yet neither is it a meritocracy. Those who haven't been chosen for the first session have been told they will definitely play in the Friday afternoon foursomes, barring, of course “accidents etc”. It means that for only the second time in European Ryder Cup history nobody will have to wait until Saturday.
“Everybody is going to play on that first day and that's also very important,” he said.
“They can go to bed after they arrive on Monday night knowing they are going to be helping the team in Friday.
“I've told them that to allay their nerves about when they may or may not be playing. I don't want the sort of team we had in the nineties, where there was a split.”
Again, Montgomerie's own experiences have played a big part in his thinking. As a largely unknown 28-year-old in 1991 he appeared in three out of the five sessions, but felt a stranger.
“When I made by debut I was part of that split — I felt very, very junior,” he recalled.
“I hadn't played an American major by them. But the guys on my team all have and have played world events.
“This team is much closer in standard than we've ever had before.
“There's hardly anything between the 12 of them — and that's why they can and will all play on the first day.”
Montgomerie's reasoning is no doubt commendable, but some may also think it slightly foolhardy, if not just because he has made his call before checking on the individuals' form.
At Kentucky two years ago, Nick Faldo was lambasted for getting caught out by photographers with a list of his opening pairs in his hand — and his “just my sandwich list” justification only added to the criticism.
But Montgomerie will not be revealing his order until just before the draw a week today and does not really care if Corey Pavin can work out the pairings from practice.
“I'm not showing my hand at all,” he said. “Corey won't know for sure, who's playing with who or in what order.
“And if the Molinari brothers play together in practice? Well, that'd be a surprise, wouldn't it?”
The Italians, however, will not form the only obvious partnership. In the predictable scramble to second-guess Montgomerie most will pair Rory McIlroy with his Northern Ireland compatriot and friend Graeme McDowell.