Former victorious captain Colin Montgomerie believes Padraig Harrington’s toughest task could be saying ‘no’ to as many as four rookies who fall short of qualifying automatically for the Ryder Cup.
A sunburnt Monty was at this glorious best in fielding questions ahead of this week’s Senior Open championship at Sunningdale where he now resides. The now 58-year-old and triple Senior Major winner will have his only son, Cameron on the bag for this week’s rescheduled event after being cancelled a year ago.
And while Monty will be focussed this week on career win number 55, he also has one-eye on how Harrington’s side is shaping-up for their showdown against a red-hot ‘Stars and Stripes’ outfit in now just two months.
Harrington already looks assured of one rookie in the team with Norwegian sensation Viktor Hovland and two should Shane Lowry hopefully now cement his place among the leading eight. It leaves four ‘wildcard’ picks with rookies Bernd Wiesberger, Victor Perez and Robert MacIntyre right on the cusp of breaking into the team but with most observers saying Harrington will go with the likes of the tried and tested Ian Poulter, Paul Casey, Lee Westwood, Justin Rose or Sergio Garcia.
“The difficult decision for Padraig is if any rookie ends qualifying just outside the automatic picks will be do you pick a rookie when the Ryder Cup is in America,” said Monty.
“It’s going to be loud and that’s nothing against the American crowd, it’s just they are (smiling) a little louder than we are. That’s great for the Ryder Cup and we’ve missed the crowds.
“Padraig and his vice-captains will have to get together and talk to the likes of Robert MacIntyre and ask is he able to handle that particular and different type of pressure, and right now he seems to be able to. Put is this way. If the Ryder Cup was in Europe, you’d have him in the team tomorrow but given it is in America, it brings a different dynamic to it.
“I’ve always said I was never going to pick a rookie. I did but mainly because it was at home but it’s very difficult to pick a rookie when it’s away from home as you are just not sure as it’s almost too much of a risk. But the way Robert plays the game, and a Ryder Cup-type game and that never say die game, that is what you want in a Ryder Cup.”
Though what about the American crowds and how they could single-out a European rookie and turn on him as we’ve seen at prior Ryder Cups in the States? Famously, Monty himself was ‘mis-treated’ competing at the height of his career when in the States.
“It’s why I stand here as it is difficult to say as you have to pick someone who is not frightened or not scared,” Monty said.
“You can say what you like about a player’s stats but you have got to be able to handle it in America. It will be even more difficult in America this year with the European situation not being where you are unable to fly over there. Normally, there is 90% Americans at a Ryder Cup in America so there will be 99% American fans this year.
“They will all come down I believe from Green Bay and they’re all ‘Cheese Heads’ and they’re all quite loud, so it’s going to be very difficult, very difficult as America wants the Ryder Cup back.”
And knowing Harrington as well as Montgomerie does, he says the key to any victory will be preparation.
“I think I found when I was captain 11 years ago now, is it’s all about preparation, right,” said Monty.
“You have to be prepared. You have to be flexible and you have to be prepared. You are to get your team on that first tee prepared to play and that’s his job and he will do that very well being the statistician that he is.
“Padraig will have it all prepared out. He’s had an extra year, as well, so he’s had three years to prepare, as opposed to two. That’s his advantage, and Steve Stricker, as well, they are in the same boat, but he will be prepared and that’s all you can do.
“You send your guys out there off and on the first tee and you lose control, you lose control of team and you just hope to hell in four hours or so they bring back something, a point or a half a point or something.
“But preparation, that’s all he can do. I could have left Celtic Manor with my head held high, say we lost The Ryder Cup there, but I prepared my team 100 percent, but you can walk away with your head held high, as opposed to otherwise.”
Darren Clarke and Paul McGinley are the only Irish in the Surrey field. Play gets underway on Thursday.
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