LONDON (AP) — With a well-rounded game and a build to match, Colin Montgomerie became the face of European golf when he was in his prime.
Although the burly Montgomerie has never managed to win a major title – he’s finished second five times – the often surly Scot did enjoy tremendous success in the Ryder Cup, winning five times in eight appearances with Europe.
It was that record, combined with the respect he gets from the best players on the continent, that prompted his selection Wednesday as captain for next year’s tournament in Wales.
Montgomerie was picked over Jose Maria Olazabal, Sandy Lyle and Ian Woosnam.
“It became very obvious in the discussions in Abu Dhabi that we wanted the right man for 2010 and as that meeting progressed Colin’s name came more and more into the frame,” said Thomas Bjorn, the chairman of the Ryder Cup tournament committee.
The 45-year-old Montgomerie won his first of 31 European Tour titles in 1989, taking the Portuguese Open by 11 strokes. Two years later, he made his Ryder Cup debut, and now owns the second-best career record for the team with 20 wins, nine losses and seven halves.
“I dreamt this opportunity might come my way, but far-off dreams I must admit,” Montgomerie said Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, where the announcement was made. “We speak here 17, 18 years later and here it is.”
Montgomerie will be 47 when the competition starts at Celtic Manor in September 2010, making him Europe’s youngest captain. The United States has already chosen Corey Pavin as its captain. He will be 50 at the time.
“I’ve played Corey Pavin in the Ryder Cup on three occasions, and coming out on top twice,” Montgomerie said. “But at the same time, every match is a tough game, and I know that having won the Ryder Cup the last time with America, there’s no question he wants to retain that trophy as much as we want it back.”
A few weeks ago, Montgomerie had been hoping to be a part of Europe’s team as a player.
“It just seems the time is right for me to take the helm here and be captain,” he said. “I will not in any way, shape or form come close to qualifying for the team.”
Ian Poulter, who made his Ryder Cup debut last year, said he believes the team will perform well under Montgomerie.
“His record is very impressive in the Ryder Cup, and it’s something people respect highly,” Poulter said. “He will be able to perform under pressure because he always has – I can’t see why he would be any different as captain.”
Montgomerie’s 23 1/2 points rank him second only to former partner-turned-nemesis Nick Faldo in terms of Ryder Cup success. Faldo, who in 1999 accused Montgomerie of being more interested in prize money than majors, captained Europe last year and left Montgomerie off the team that lost to the United States at Valhalla.
Besides his success in the biennial international competition, Montgomerie has enjoyed huge success on the European Tour. In 1997, the same year he clinched a Ryder Cup victory for Europe by halving against Scott Hoch, Montgomerie became the first player to win five straight Order of Merit titles for earning the most money. He has won eight altogether.
In major championships, Montgomerie’s best chance may have been the 2006 U.S. Open.
After knocking his tee shot to a perfect spot in the 18th fairway, Montgomerie left his approach shot short – in a virtually unplayable patch of thick rough. Instead of a two-putt for par, he wound up with a double-bogey.
Montgomerie also finished second at the 1994 and 1997 U.S. Opens, the 2005 British Open and the 1995 PGA Championship.
Montgomerie has also had to endure an often volatile relationship with golf fans in the United States – with the Ryder Cup tending to produce the worst heckling.
In the most notable incident, Montgomerie, with his hefty midsection and reddish face, was called Mrs. Doubtfire at the 1997 U.S. Open because of his resemblance to the cross-dressing character supposedly from Scotland played by Robin Williams in the movie of the same name.
He responded by saying: “Save your shouting for the Ryder Cup.”
At Celtic Manor next year, it will likely be Montgomerie doing most of the shouting to get his players motivated.
“It’s not just an honor but a huge responsibility as well,” Montgomerie said. “It is important we do everything we can to claim back the Ryder Cup in Wales in 2010.”