Sport Golf

Friday 24 February 2017

Monty insists Europe's stars will peak in time for Celtic Manor face-off

Andrew Mullen

Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie shrugged off any concerns over a dip in form of Europe's leading players with only Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter competing against an American resurgence six months ahead of October's Celtic Manor showdown.

European No 1 Westwood, who finished second at last week's Masters, and WGC-Accenture Match Play winner Poulter have been identified by American captain Corey Pavin as Montgomerie's key to European success in Wales.

But with Phil Mickelson superbly claiming a third Green Jacket from Westwood at Augusta and world No 1 Tiger Woods impressively finishing tied for fourth following his five-month exile, the momentum has certainly swung America's way with only eight European's making the cut.

Europe had gathered pace at the start of the year leading up to Poulter's Match Play success, but at the Masters, Sergio Garcia finished well down the field, while Luke Donald, Soren Hansen, Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Paul Casey, Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell and Martin Kaymer missed the cut.

"I think I'll just have to ride the wave and hope they peak at the right time," said Montgomerie.

"I must admit only two in Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood played well and honoured their ranking (at Augusta). The rest of the European team didn't perform the way they would have expected.

"But that's not too much of a worry for me at this stage in April, but at the same time, I would like them to perform a little bit better come the US Open (in June)."

Miguel Angel Jimenez, in a share of 12th, just missed out on joining Westwood and Poulter inside the top 10 at Augusta, while Francesco Molinari and Soren Kjeldsen, who were tied for a share of 30th, represented Europe's next best result. Kaymer has already won this year in Abu Dhabi, while Garcia and Stenson have long struggled for genuine consistency.

Montgomerie paid tribute to the rejuvenated Americans, with Woods' performance at Augusta moving him up to seventh and into an automatic qualification place on the USA Ryder Cup points table, which is currently topped by Mickelson and Anthony Kim.

Irish Independent

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