RYDER CUP skipper Colin Montgomerie believes European golf has never been so good and the 46-year-old Scot is determined to do everything in his power to marshal those resources for October’s Celtic Manor showdown with the USA.
Which explains Monty’s decision not just to captain the European team in this weekend’s Royal Trophy confrontation with Asia in Thailand but also to play. Starting with today’s opening foursomes, he wants to observe more closely potential candidates for the Ryder Cup challenge.
“We’ve a great wealth of talent in Europe, more so than I’ve ever witnessed in my career,” said Montgomerie, who believes victory at the Royal Trophy this weekend would be an important step in the bid to win back the Ryder Cup.
Asia inflicted a 10-6 defeat on Europe in Thailand last year, four months after Nick Faldo’s Ryder Cup squad was mown down at Valhalla, so Monty is eager to restore the side’s reputation in team golf.
“It’s a very important year for European golf in 2010, culminating in the Ryder Cup,” said the eight-time Order of Merit winner.
“This (the Royal Trophy) is a very good preparation for us in many ways to see how our top players are performing early on in the year, while it gives me a great opportunity to witness how they are preparing for (the Ryder Cup) at the end of the year.
Montgomerie is confident his dual role will not hinder Europe's chances of winning at Amata Spring Country Club; he’s actually done it several times with the British and Irish team at The Seve Trophy.
“With one match a day it is possible to captain and play in the team and it means I am at very close quarters to watch my team players and see what will happen not just here but of course later in the year,” said Monty, who partners in-form Spaniard Pablo Martin in this morning's opening foursomes.
“My team’s full of winners – their captain is the only one without a win in the last 12 months,” added the Scot with a wry smile.
“I’m looking forward to trying to regain the trophy. But it will be a tough task and a stiff competition for us as the Asian team are very strong.”
Having lost heavily in the first two meetings with Europe, Asia pulled off a surprise victory last year and their captain Naomichi ‘Joe’ Ozaki has retains five of those players.
Japan’s teenage sensation Ryo Ishikawa, South Korea’s Charlie Wi and Thai duo Prayad Marksaeng and Thongchai Jaidee spearhead Ozaki’s side's challenge.
First Round Fousomes (Asian name s first): R Ishikawa and K Oda v C Montgomerie and P Martin. JM Singh and G Bhullar v P Hanson and S Kjeldsen, C Wi and L Wen-chong v R Karlsson and A Noren. P Marksaeng and T Jaidee v S Dyson and H Stenson.