With the Ryder Cup two months away, Europe's captain likes what he sees

Colin Montgomerie will have plenty of top players to choose from for his European Ryder Cup team.
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ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — Colin Montgomerie's golf was rubbish in the final round of the 139th British Open at the Old Course at St. Andrews — the final two rounds, really.

Montgomerie shot 74-73 on the weekend to finish four over, 20 strokes behind the winner, Louis Oosthuizen. Still, there was a lot to like about this Open for Monty, who will captain the European side at the Ryder Cup in Wales, Oct. 1-3.

"I can pick two teams here that can beat each other on any given day," Montgomerie said. "That's the strength and that's the depth of European golf, especially this year."

With the exception of Padraig Harrington, who missed the cut, it seemed as if every European Ryder regular was in contention at St. Andrews, in addition to a few promising newcomers.

Lee Westwood (70) took second, seven strokes back. Rory McIlroy, 21, who has never played in a Ryder Cup, shot 68 Sunday to finish eight under along with Paul Casey (75) and Swede Henrik Stenson (71).

Only a second-round 80 marred McIlroy's Open, which began with a course-record 63 in perfect conditions Thursday. The kid may be Europe's most potent weapon at the Cup at Celtic Manor, which is saying something because at the moment Europe and Montgomerie would seem to have an embarrassment of riches.

Team USA? Not so much.

"I certainly wish Americans had played better in general," U.S. captain Corey Pavin said via e-mail as Oosthuizen finished up his easy victory. "But there were good performances by Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Jeff Overton, Nick Watney, J.B. Holmes and Sean O'Hair.

"With over 70 days before the first shot is struck at the Ryder Cup," Pavin continued, "there is still plenty of time for potential team members to show even better form."

Pavin will play the Senior British Open at Carnoustie this week, and he crossed the pond a bit early for an outing last Thursday.

That's how he ended up watching the final round of the Open from a hotel room in London on Sunday, two hours from where he will lead the U.S. side into battle against Europe.

To be charitable, there weren't many highlights. O'Hair and Watney shot one-under 71s to finish six under, nowhere near the lead but tied for low American in seventh.

One shot back was Overton (69), followed by a group at four under that included Fowler (67), Holmes (72) and Johnson (74). One other American was in at four under: 51-year-old Tom Lehman, the 2006 U.S. Ryder Cup captain, who shot a two-under 70 on Sunday.

Paul Casey's weak finish, which included a triple-bogey 7 on the 12th hole, a bogey on 15, and his failure to birdie the easy 18th, was one of the few disappointments for Europe's Montgomerie.

The captain did the math and figured Casey could have wrapped up a spot among the top nine automatic qualifiers with a solo second.

"I don't want to have to waste picks on world stars like Paul Casey," Montgomerie said before Casey shot a back-nine 40.

Martin Kaymer, who will likely make the Euro team as a rookie, bogeyed his last three holes to tie for seventh place at six under.

The usual American Ryder stalwarts were well back, led by Tiger Woods (72, T23). Then came Bo Van Pelt (74) and Ricky Barnes (77). Phil Mickelson (75), Stewart Cink (74) and Lucas Glover (76) tied for 48th place with John Daly (73).

Most of the above players will now return to the States and the PGA Tour, where victories by Justin Rose (MC at St. Andrews), Ian Poulter (T60) and Westwood were the first sign that Pavin's American team may be in for more of an uphill battle than anyone thought.

"We've had our first British winner of the U.S. Open for 40 years, Lee Westwood almost won the Masters, we're contending here again, and who says we won't do so again at the U.S. PGA in a month's time," Montgomerie said. "It's been a fabulous year for British golf."

Pavin will make his four captain's picks after the PGA Championship on Aug. 15. Montgomerie will choose three players on Sunday, Aug. 29, after the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles.

 

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