Colin Montgomerie has joined the debate over the Tiger Woods factor at next week’s Ryder Cup with the former European captain believing the 14-time major champion will be most intimidating to Darren Clarke’s rookies at Hazeltine.
Clarke will lead a 12-man team containing six rookies to Minnesota on Monday aiming to upset the odds against a short-priced United States team and win the cup for the fourth time in succession.
Yet the presence of Woods, set to return to competitive golf next month after a year sidelined by back injuries, as one of US captain Davis Love’s vice captains adds an intriguing element to the home team room.
European veteran Lee Westwood, one of Clarke’s three captain’s picks, this week said the former world number one could have an “adverse effect” in the American team room, a suggestion shot down by 2008 US captain Paul Azinger.
Montgomerie, who captained Europe to victory in 2010 at Celtic Manor to regain the Ryder Cup following Azinger’s Valhalla victory, believes it will not be star-struck Americans intimidated by Woods’ presence in the US team room but the rookies travelling from Europe next week.
“America having only one rookie, and that’s Brooks Koepka, and Tiger will be there to put pressure on. It’s a wise move from Davis and all credit to Tiger for standing up to the plate and saying ‘yes, I’m not playing but I want to be there and I want to support America’.
“Him being on this team, it is different and it will be difficult for our rookies when he’s standing there. If you know Tiger’s there, you know you’ve got to perform and the crowd will be there, even chanting Tiger’s name, so that’s an added incentive for America.
“If I had someone of that stature in my first game, a Jack Nicklaus or an Arnold Palmer there as I was on the first tee, my God, you’d feel it. Tiger will be used as much as possible to be that way. So it is a bit of a coup to get Tiger on board.”
Woods’s contribution to previous US Ryder Cup efforts has never matched his individual glories and his commitment to the American cause has often been called into question. His seven appearances as a player between 1997 and 2012, he missed the 2008 win through injury, have delivered just 14.5 points from a possible 33 and Woods finished on the winning side only once, at Brookline in 1999.
Sky Sports analyst Montgomerie, though, believes the biennial contest with Europe may mean more to Woods at this point in his career than it did at the start of participation in the event 19 years ago.
“I think he came from the FedEx Series or whatever it was before and the Ryder Cup wasn’t as important as it probably is now for Tiger. I think it’s good for him to be seen to be in a supporting role for the first time ever and I hope it gives him the incentive to get out of that supporting role and get back playing because it’s a bigger event with him playing in it.
“But at the same time I think it’s good that he’s decided to put his patriotic hat on and support his fellow players. And it’s one up for America to have him on those teams and to be part of this American fervour, because it’s going to be that way. It’s going to be loud and sometimes aggressive, maybe, but it’s going to be loud and difficult (for Europe).”
As staunchly European as Montgomerie is, the Scot, an eight-time Ryder Cup player and five-time winner who picked up 23 points between 1991 and 2006, could not quite bring himself to agree that an American win next week would be good for the event.
But he conceded the US needed to up its game. “They’ve lost six of the last seven, so to lose seven out of eight times, it’s becoming very, very, very one-sided and in Paris (in 2018) we’re bound to be favourites again on home soil.
s is good for the Ryder Cup if America wins? I think you know the answer to that yourself and I think as a lover of the Ryder Cup, the anwer is possibly. As a lover of European golf and a former European captain I can’t possibly say that, because I’d rather we win it all the time. But it’s got to be a contest and they know that as well.
“They’re embarrassed by the way they have performed to have lost it six times in recent times. S
“o they want it back badly and yeah, possibly, if you’re sitting directly on the fence as a neutral, yes, I think you’re answer would be ‘yes’ to that. You’re talking to the wrong guy as to wanting that, but having a good Ryder Cup competition makes the world go round.”
*Sky Sports Ryder Cup’ will be the exclusive home of the competition from 26 September.
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