admit it, not out loud. Maybe the most dominating player in Ryder Cup
history—he has never lost in singles, and his overall record is 20-9-7—had come
to the PGA Championship on a tryout basis. Colin Montgomerie, the warrior
Scotsman swaddled in cashmere, has been the "stalwart" (Jim Furyk's
word) in all those European wins in the Bush-Clinton-Bush years. But his 2008
campaign had been a slog, and to make this year's team on points or as a
captain's pick, he had to do something sparkly at Oakland Hills. His Thursday
round, a six-over 76, only hurt his chances, and now it was Friday—his last
chance, realistically. Nick Faldo, the European captain, was in a trailer in
the CBS compound. He watched Monty miss from four feet. Faldo shook his head. ¶
The linebacker-sized Englishman, in a trailer that could barely contain him,
started counting on his meaty fingers: "Ninety-one, '93, '95, '97, '99,
'02, '04, '06," Faldo said. He nodded at his outstretched hands. "One,
two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight—he's played in eight straight."
It was as if the CBS commentator, Hall of Fame player and course designer had
never considered Monty's Ryder Cup record before, and maybe he hadn't. Faldo,
who has appeared in more Ryder Cups (11) and won more Ryder Cup points (25)
than anybody else, witnessed the Monty years firsthand.
look very good for him for this year, does it?" somebody said.
not completely out of the question, but the bottom line is he's
struggling," Faldo said. "His stats don't look good. He's 45. He's been
a strong Ryder Cup player." It sounded as if he were preparing
Montgomerie's Ryder Cup obituary as a player. He'll have a second life as a
European captain someday, in either 2010, when the matches will be played in
Wales, or 2014, when they'll be in Scotland.
But for '08 Faldo
has a nice problem, and Montgomerie is not likely part of the solution. On
Labor Day, Faldo will announce his 12-man team for the Sept. 19--21 matches at
Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville. Ten guys will make it on a points formula off
two separate lists, one that tracks European tour play, the other worldwide
play. Faldo will be left to handpick two players. Padraig Harrington, the
British Open and PGA champion, has been lobbying for Faldo to pick Montgomerie.
In 2004 the Ryder Cup was played at Oakland Hills, and Monty—skinny with
anxiety, going through a difficult divorce and playing indifferently—was chosen
for the team by Bernhard Langer, the European captain. In the first match on
Friday, Harrington and Montgomerie defeated Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson 2
and 1, and the U.S. team never got over the shock. But that was four years
This year captain
Faldo might have to use picks to get Ian Poulter or Paul Casey or Martin
Kaymer, young players with dependable putting strokes, on the team. He could
pick the old boy—Monty's fluffy hair, once blond, is now silver—but it would be
Paul Azinger, the
U.S. captain, has an even more difficult problem (but one of his own making).
He wanted four picks instead of the traditional two that captains have had for
years, and he wanted more time to make them. The captain's two choices once
were announced the day after the PGA Championship. This year they'll be
released on Sept. 2, the day after the European team is announced. Azinger will
appear in a hotel meeting room in midtown Manhattan and name his four guys
With No. 1 Woods
out recuperating from knee surgery, Nos. 2 through 9 were solidified at Oakland
Hills. Ben Curtis's tie for second vaulted him to No. 8 and knocked Steve
Stricker to 10th. The only way Stricker—or Woody Austin or Rocco Mediate or
Sean O'Hair or Brandt Snedeker or anybody else outside the automatic eight—is
going to Valhalla is as one of Azinger's four captain's picks. These are the
players who are now officially being outfitted for team uniforms: Mickelson;
Stewart Cink, who missed the cut in the PGA; Kenny Perry, who withdrew because
of an eye injury; Jim Furyk; Anthony Kim; Justin Leonard; Curtis; and Boo
Weekley, who shot a final-round 66 to help secure his spot.
When J.B. Holmes
was leading the PGA last Saturday afternoon, Azinger made no secret of the fact
that he hoped the long-bombing, slow-playing Kentuckian would make the team.
But Holmes closed with an 81 and finished 18th on the points list, and will
have to play some inspired golf over the next three weeks to have a chance of
being picked. The all-European one-two finish of Harrington and Sergio García
at the PGA, on a quintessentially American course, could not have been welcome
news to Azinger. A guess for Zinger's four picks would be Austin, Mediate, D.J.
Trahan and Hunter Mahan, but much will depend on who plays well between now and
the closing bell at the end of August.
were on the scene at Oakland Hills last week, Faldo in the broadcast booth,
Azinger in the field and playing all four rounds (he finished 64th), or two
more than Montgomerie. Oakland Hills was the place where Montgomerie's status
in the U.S. changed. His estranged wife was dating a movie star (Hugh Grant),
and suddenly Monty seemed like a sympathetic figure. The week in '04 seemed to
rekindle his career, and two years later he was a runner-up in the U.S. Open at
Winged Foot with Furyk and Mickelson. Montgomerie seemed to hole more putts in
Ryder Cup play than he did in the rest of his career combined.
having other players around him," Montgomerie's former caddie Alistair
McLean said last week. (McLean's current boss, Lee Westwood, will most likely
play all five matches at Valhalla.) "If a partner was in trouble, he'd say,
'Never mind, I'll hole this.' If he didn't, it was only one hole. Match play