Colin Montgomerie: "I had to deliver"October, 2011
The European Ryder Cup captain in 2010 on his favourite week in golf
HE has admitted his performances in the Ryder Cup “have been his Major”.
But Colin Montgomerie had to preserve his legendary status among European supporters by masterminding the regaining of the trophy from America.
The Scot passed that test and he spoke to us about his love for the biennial matches.
Q: You led Europe off four times. How important is the opening match and what sort of a player do you need there?
A: The first pairing is very important and I want someone to get on with it. Getting the first point in blue on the board is most important to feed down to the team to give them momentum.
Q: Is it foolish to ignore the obvious pairings and try to be too clever with them?
A: That’s a discussion I had with my vice-captains during the week but there were some obvious ones such as the Molinari brothers that we didn’t ignore.
Q: Did you have in mind which player might lead off in the singles or was that done on form during the week?
A: The singles line-up was very much based on the results and form shown by the players on Friday and Saturday and if we were winning, drawing or losing.
Q: Much is made of the singles order – Torrance lauded in 2002, Faldo criticised in 2008 – but is it not just more luck than judgment how it comes out?
A: No, Sam Torrance changed the way singles orders are done and he did it very successfully for that particular match. I do think it is more judgment than luck overall.
Q: Previous captains got players to put names in envelopes of who they do and don’t want to play with. Did you do likewise?
A: No, I think my vice-captains and I knew our players and their personalities well enough to be able to make the right decisions.
Q: You’ve said how important the speech is. Did you ask anyone to help with this?
A: Yes. I think it is so important for the team to have respect and confidence in their captain and part of that is how the captain publicly appears. Iit is a very important part of the role. I was very focused on setting the tone for the team by making a good opening speech and I worked hard to prepare and deliver the best speech I could.
Q: And which captain, from either side, has given the best one in your time as a player?
A: It is difficult to pick one but if I had to say one stands out it would be Sam Torrance.
Q: You were put out first in 2002 to set the tone by destroying your opponent, Scott Hoch. Have you ever played better?
A: No, not when it was so important. I had to deliver for the team and I was very glad I was able to come up with the goods.
Q: You chose four big-name vice-captains. Was Faldo having just one serious assistant a big lesson from Valhalla?
A: I have never have got into other captains and how they addressed particular situations.
This worked best for me and I think my backroom staff were a huge asset. I think listening to other opinions is important before making up one’s mind. Democracy in the team room works well.
I kept my distance from the players. They have their own coaches, own caddies and own technical know-how. Q: What are your views on pairings?
Being flexible is part of being a good captain and I had to think at all times in a flexible manner so there is opportunity for anyone to play with anyone at any given time.
Of course I gave the pairings a lot of thought in the build-up and discussed them with my assistants before making any firm decisions. Everyone was definitely going to play before the singles.
I was never given a surprise pairing and I don’t think having surprises is the way to go. I agree with Woosie in terms of having specialist foursomes and fourball players. Having fourball and foursomes players was part of the reason why my captain’s selections were why they were. I had to think of the team at that stage and not individuals.
Q: How impressed were you with Paul Azinger and how tempting was it to replicate his successful pod system?
A: I was very impressed with Paul but I didn’t feel the pod system was required by our European team.
Q: What were your favourite and least favourite team uniforms?
A: I have always been very proud of all the outfits that say Europe on them. I don’t have a favourite or a least favourite – just as long as it was comfortable to play in. I was rather more focused on playing!
Q: Who was your favourite captain to play under and which captain was your style of leadership most similar to?
A: I tried to take a bit of all the captains whom I have played under but specifically influential were Sam Torrance and Bernhard Langer. My favourite captain would be a combination of the two of them.
Q: Having won the previous three matches was there a danger of complacency in 2008 – and did that make it easier for you to motivate the side?
A: I was not part of the team in 2008 so I cannot comment but I assure you that my team was prepared like no other and that the word complacency never got mentioned in our team room.
Q: Seve was particularly hands on, did you get involved with offering clubbing advice to your players?
A: I kept my distance from the players. They have their own coaches, own caddies and own technical know-how. I did not get involved with any technical aspects of their games.
Q: How difficult is it for anyone to play all five series?
A: Extremely. No-one in Europe has ever won five out of five. I got the closest in 2002 where I achieved 4½ and that proves, to me, how hard it is to gain all five.