Friday, September 17, 2004
Same old song for Monty
By Bob Harig
Special to ESPN.com
BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- If you were skeptical, if you still needed convincing, all the doubts should have ceased on the very first hole of the 35th Ryder Cup Matches on Friday morning.
There was Colin Montgomerie, hitting his iron shot onto the green from a fairway bunker, then holing the putt for a birdie.
That gave Montgomerie and partner Padraig Harrington a lead they would never relinquish to Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
And so it goes for Monty.
The world might have crumbled a bit around him in recent times. His PGA European Tour dominance ended some time ago. He had a nasty and very public divorce that was just finalized last week. His run-ins with fans and media are legendary. And he has slipped outside of the top-50 in the World Ranking.
But raise the flags, sing the national anthems, put on the team uniforms at the Ryder Cup, and Monty becomes Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan and Bobby Jones rolled into one.
He walks with confidence, stalks the golf course. He confers with his partner, seizes the moment. If there are a few murmurs of negativity on foreign soil -- as has been so well-documented in his career -- Monty lets them slide, as he should.
Montgomerie and Harrington whipped Woods and Mickelson, 2 and 1. And it wasn't as if Woods and Mickelson played poorly. They made four birdies in the best-ball match on the front nine. But Monty and Harrington made six. In fact, they combined to birdie the first four holes and six of the first eight. And it all started with Monty birdieing the first two holes.
"It was very important to us," Montgomerie said after the morning match and before partnering with Harrington again in afternoon foursomes. "It was psychologically almost worth two points to us. It was very important for us to get off to a good start and we did.
"To birdie the first from the bunker was a fantastic start, personally and for the team. That was the start we required and needed, because we knew this wasn't going to be easy."
Not impressed? Well, Monty and Harrington went out and squashed Davis Love III and Fred Funk in afternoon Foursomes, 4 and 2. The duo played 33 holes today -- and never trailed one of them.
In fact, Monty hasn't trailed in Ryder Cup play in 143 holes, dating back to Saturday at The Country Club in 1999.
There's just something about the Ryder Cup...
Montgomerie has played in every one dating to the 1991 matches at Kiawah, S.C. Then, he was a virtual unknown outside of Britain, a U.S.-schooled golfer who was still two years removed from winning the first of seven straight European Order of Merit titles.
Over the years, he had his chances to win major championships, twice falling short in playoffs. Remarkably, he has never won an official tournament in the United States.
But he became a rock for the European team. Monty mostly defers to his partners.
"I think I've been very fortunate in the partners that I've managed to obtain over the years," Montgomerie said. "Been very fortunate with the likes of playing with legends of European golf in Bernhard Langer and Nick Faldo. I was lucky there. They taught me an awful lot."
True, Montgomerie was paired Friday with Harrington, the highest-ranked player in the world on the European team. Still, the victories improved Monty's record to 13-2-3 in his past 18 matches, his overall mark to 18-7-5.
"We had a great time out there and it is easy when you have a partner like Colin," Harrington said. "He showed his class again today and it is easy for me playing with him because I can afford to miss a few holes and he is right there."
That's nothing new for Monty. It's the Ryder Cup.
|Monty was all smiles on Friday -- just another 2-0 day for one of the most accomplished European Ryder Cuppers ever.|
Bob Harig covers golf for the St. Petersburg Times and is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.