Last saturday at the BMW Championship in Wentworth, England, European tour pro Gary Evans unloaded on Colin Montgomerie. Monty, Evans maintained, had been let off too easily for improperly replacing his ball after it was stolen during a weather delay at the Indonesian Open in March, putting the ball at least 18 inches from its original resting place and giving himself a better stance in the process. "The integrity of our game cannot continue to be compromised in such fashion," Evans said.
His outburst brought a swift response from tour executive director George O'Grady, who said, "The whole issue has been debated by experienced players elected by their comrades. They have taken a decision and made a statement, and the issue is finished." O'Grady was referring to a review of the matter by the players' tournament committee, a group of 14 veteran pros that includes Thomas Bj�rn, Darren Clarke and even Montgomerie. Like the tour itself, the committee imposed no official punishment after questioning Montgomerie, but the meeting was tense, and afterward the committee took the rare step of publicly rebuking Monty. To his credit Montgomerie donated the $45,000 he won in the tournament to tsunami relief.
Still, Evans's remarks show that despite Monty's largesse and O'Grady's insistence, the issue will not go away. During his tirade Evans claimed that 98% of the players shared his point of view, and there have been numerous reports in recent weeks that unnamed members of the rank and file believe that Montgomerie was given special treatment because of his prominence on the tour.
What exactly this means to Montgomerie going forward is unclear. Certainly it could be harder for him to find a friendly face in the locker room, which is tough for a guy in the midst of a painful divorce. It may also make it difficult for him to get reelected to the tournament committee when his term expires. Most of all, it might have implications for the Ryder Cup, at which Monty has defined his career.
The next cup is still a year and a half away, but it's not too far-fetched to believe that an incident like this one could eat at the European side's much discussed unity. What's more, where Monty was once considered a lock for the 2010 European captaincy ( Ian Woosnam and Nick Faldo have already been named for 2006 and '08, respectively), one has to wonder if the rancor toward him will derail his chances. After all, the captain is chosen by the same players who said they were "dissatisfied" with Montgomerie's actions: the members of the tournament committee.