From Brian Keogh in Cologne
Colin Montgomerie has been accused of many things in his 20-year European Tour career - but he could never be called dull.
In his pre-tournament press conference for the 78-man, €2 million Mercedes-Benz Championship outside Cologne, the eight-time European number one touched on everything from his start to the 2008 Ryder Cup campaign, Ireland’s claim for a World Cup exemption, the forthcoming Seve Trophy and his first impressions of the ubiquitous FedEx Cup.
He even revealed the identity of his best man for his spring wedding with Gaynor Knowles, the wealthy widow of a Scottish furniture tycoon.
Spying Montgomerie anxiously scan the practice range earlier in the morning, one wag cheekily suggested that the often lonesome Scot was searching in vain for a candidate for best man’s duties.
“(Manager) Guy Kinnings is going to be my best man,” Monty chirped. “My brother was best man the first time and he would rather be a guest on this occasion, having once done it. Guy’s been a very close friend for 20 years, and an obvious choice. It saves me upsetting any players too.”
Montgomerie will fire his first salvo in the 2008 Ryder Cup points war today and he’s hoping that by the time he hangs up his Christmas stocking, he will have duplicated his start to the 2006 Ryder Cup campaign and have his place in Nick Faldo’s European side well and truly copper-fastened.
“I had a great end to 2005, where I won the dunhill links, finished third in the American Express tournament in America, and was third at the Volvo Masters, so I’d qualified really by Christmas,” he said. “The plan again is to qualify by Christmas.”
Unlike the “unavailable” Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson and Anders Hansen, Montgomerie will be playing the Seve Trophy at the Heritage in Co Laois in two weeks’ time and he hopes that GB&I skipper Nick Faldo gives a wildcard to Paul McGinley, one of Faldo’s vice-captains designate for the next year’s Ryder Cup matches in Kentucky.
He said: “It would be good to see Paul involved, especially as it’s in Ireland, and to give him some experience with Nick at the same time.”
McGinley and Montgomerie were singing from the same hymn sheet in their support of the tour’s decision to stage a limited field, no-cut event at a stage in the season when players who are struggling to save their tour cards are worried about every eurocent.
The Dubliner’s stance is simple. “If you have your card, there are 40-odd other events you can qualify to play,” McGinley said. “The sponsors wanted a small, elite field and to a large extent, they dictate…That is the way of the world. Professional sports is a tough business and nobody owes you a living.”
Playing opposite the climax to the FedEx Cup in the United States is not a problem for Montgomerie and he does not believe the European Tour needs to invent an alternative.
“I don’t think that’s been a negative to the European Tour, the FedEx series. We’ve got a good field here – we’re missing Padraig Harrington, but that’s all – so I don’t think it’s affected us in the slightest. Considering the strength of the fields over the past month, no, I don’t think it needs a rival.”
As for the Omega Mission Hills World Cup, where he will partner Marc Warren thanks to his status as world No 42, Montgomerie called for a change in the qualifying criteria to allow traditional golfing strongholds such as Ireland and Scotland to tee it up every year, regardless of world rankings.
“If they’re looking for stronger teams then they’ll have to think about ways of changing the qualification, because Ireland and Scotland shouldn’t be dependent on myself or Padraig’s schedule,” he said. “Ireland and Scotland should be pencilled in or in permanent ink, but they’re not.”