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Monty's ideal start to 2010

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Iain Carter | 11:46 UK time, Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Is this the week that most New Year resolutions are broken? From personal experience it seems that way and there's a danger of it appearing that one is going out of the window right now.

Some will find this hard to believe, but in 2010 I intend not to go too overboard about the Ryder Cup, referring to it only when relevant and not letting it become too much of an overpowering influence.

We can get a tad carried away with the biennial dust-up between Europe and the United States, as several contributors to this blog have pointed out.

But it does seem appropriate now to make mention of October's clash even though we have a full gestation period to go before it is delivered to the sporting stage. And not because tickets for the practice days at Celtic Manor have just gone on sale.

More pertinent is Colin Montgomerie's captaincy of Europe as the continent regained the Royal Trophy against Asia in Bangkok at the weekend.

There is, of course, a world of difference between the Royal Trophy and the Ryder Cup, no-one can deny that. But it was still an opportunity for Monty to lead a side with next autumn in mind.

It seems the skipper passed the test with flying colours. The fact that Henrik Stenson was able to hole the winning putt in the last match on the final green provided a fitting finale as well as Europe's third win in four matches since the inception of the Royal Trophy in 2006.

Montgomerie made the most of the opportunity that came his way after agreeing to stand in for the recuperating Seve Ballesteros as European skipper. It would not have taken too much persuasion to get him to lead the side.

Significantly he took the opportunity to get to know potential Ryder Cup rookies by playing his practice round with Alexander Noren and Pablo Martin.

Naturally players are going to be reluctant to criticise someone who may consider them as a potential wildcard come this September and Monty hasn't been short of praise in the wake of his side's victory.

But a slightly more objective and therefore worthwhile view of Monty's captaincy has been provided by Noren's caddie Colin Byrne.

The experienced and erudite Irishman provides a regular column for the Irish Times and he told the paper: "We all left Thailand on the Sunday night with a sense of camaraderie and team spirit that is non existent in the traditionally selfish game of golf."

Byrne saw great value in the practice round that involved his man Noren and Martin playing with the captain. "They had no real contact with Monty before this and were curious how he would be" he wrote. "He was relaxed, confident and authoritative, as you would expect an elder statesman to be."

Byrne also revealed that Montgomerie organised team meals that included players and caddies together throughout the week as he sought to build a winning team spirit.

"Monty's attitude was the Asians were up for it and we did not travel through so many time zones to lose," Byrne said.

Montgomerie played as well as skippered his team, something he won't be doing in Wales in October. He regarded the other seven team members as Ryder Cup candidates and it is clear he was seeking to try out man-management techniques that may come into play when the US provide the opposition.

Europe's winning Royal Trophy team - Front row (left to right) Soren Kjeldsen, Simon Dyson Alexander Noren. Back row (left to right) Robert Karlsson, Pablo Martin, Colin Montgomerie, Peter Hanson, Henrik StensonEurope's winning Royal Trophy team. Will there be more celebrations in October?

The Royal Trophy usually passes without too much attention, this one may well have carried a touch more significance.

Okay that's enough Ryder Cup, until the next time - when it might be that we are considering Martin Laird's credentials to play for Europe. It would be wrong to start on that theme now, but his fourth-placed finish in the season opening SBS Championship bodes well for the Scot in 2010.

Laird is now up to 84th in the world and the push is now on to make the top 64 in time for February's WGC Matchplay in Arizona. Actually top 65 should do it in the continued absence of Tiger Woods.

It is extraordinary that the new season has begun and the world number one remains in hiding. Speculation abounds as to his whereabouts, when he will come back and how he will approach his return to public life.

One recent story in America took my eye and perhaps offers an indication of how he might consider going about this.

Baseball star Mark McGwire came clean about his steroid abuse this week in a carefully co-ordinated series of media interviews that followed the release of a statement on Monday afternoon.

It culminated in a live interview at 7pm Eastern Time on the fledgling Major League Baseball Network. The strategy was devised by former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer who runs a crisis communication company.

Fleischer's sports communications firm is a joint venture with the International Management Group that looks after Woods' affairs. He, therefore, might be well-placed to assist the rehab process when Woods returns, especially as one of the areas of advice he offers is when and when not to talk.

Judging by the strategy used with McGwire, Fleischer's preferred route seems to be through the specialist sports media. The ever comprehensive American golf blogger Geoff Shackleford concludes this is potentially good news for the Golf Channel and it is hard to disagree.

But at this stage it is just yet more speculation. In the absence of concrete facts regarding Woods we are, of course, left with nothing else.

Finally for now, the start of a big season lies ahead this week for two Englishmen desperate to return to former glories. Justin Rose, ranked 70 in the world, has to climb 20 places in those rankings to gain a place at April's Masters - the major he nearly won just three years ago.

Rose starts his campaign at the Sony Open in Hawaii this week as does Luke Donald who has to get used to professional life without his brother Christian (now with Paul Casey) performing caddying duties.

John McLaren, who previously worked with Anders Hansen, Duffy Waldorf and Scott Dunlap, will be taking over the club-carrying for Donald.

Expectant father Donald's push this season will be, like Rose, for an injury-free 2010 and for a place in Monty's Ryder Cup team.

Sorry a gratuitous mention of the RC there. I can only apologise as my resolve crumbles before your very eyes.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Thought we might have hurt your feelings for a bit Carter but you managed to mention the Ryder Cup, Tiger, The Masters way off in April and give us a few more lower level tidbits in what is actually a low key article to kick off the New Year. (My friend Adele will be distraught that Luke is now to be a father lol).

    With Monty taking a team out for a try, tickets on sale and it not being a Tiger story I'd have been quite happy with a bit of Ryder Cup fluff. It helps some of us who read the golf news now and then gauge the season of the up and coming and those who probably should be there.

    Anyway, HNY Carter, here's to Ryder Cup overboarding, Tiger no doubt being teary on a Golf Channel special at some point and me obtaining gainful employment so i can actually play some damn golf this year!!!

  • Comment number 2.

    Do you think Ross Mcgowan will make the RC team 2010? Great finish to 2009...

  • Comment number 3.

    Good blog Iain.

    To be honest, you can whitter on about anything you want golf wise at the moment. It's needed to stir the golfing juices as due to the weather in England, it ain't happening on the golf course!!

    I heard a little rumour that Seve is in training now and has set himself some targets to be able to make the Open in July at St Andrews - have you any thoughts / news on this that you can share ?

  • Comment number 4.

    Iain,
    Glad you've climbed on the Martin Laird bandwagon at last. Now, if you could only mention the third (second in terms of 2009 success) Englishman in the Waialae field this week, Brian Davis.

    Not sure the McGwire nonsense yesterday was as successful as you imply; he got royally slagged off by columnists in today's media. And rightly so. Tiger had better try a different route than McGwire for whom there is little sympathy from the public. And Ari Fleischer is an arrogant, unctuous figure, difficult to understand why he would be involved in this.

  • Comment number 5.

    I am not going to apologise for mentioning the Ryder Cup in the early days of January as the build up to it is half the fun of this Biennial tournament. For Europe's sake I hope that Justin Rose can rediscover some of the form he showed throughout 07 and 08 because alongside a fully fit Luke Donald we have two players who I think are perfect for this competition. When fit, I don't think there is a more balanced, beautiful and consistent swing in the game than Donald. With Justin Rose we have a player who is capable of those flashes of brilliance that are the inspiring moments you need to win the Ryder Cup.Potentially Rose and Donald both have the game to win majors.

  • Comment number 6.

    I think because we lost the last Ryder Cup gives this years a little edge and Monty knows that. His interview for Sky Sports was impressive and clearly he has not only enhanced his own playing experience but that of Captains he has played under as well. I think the team will be well prepared. The problem and it is a good problem will be who gets in because the Order of Merit for the nine places could be interesting and then of course he gets his picks. Some of those in the automatic spots may be 'unknowns' in a general sense and as we have seen a good run and winning a big tournament can propel a player well up the Order of Merit.

    Fascinating stuff and I am very interested to see who makes the commitments for the ranking tournaments as loyalty and commitment is something Monty will look for !

  • Comment number 7.

    I can't get enough of the Ryder Cup. However, I tried to watch the two-hour special with Montgomerie on Sky Sports twice over the holiday period and both times I found myself dozing off and eventually switched over to watch something else. Montgomerie is so carried away with his own persona that his pomposity will only spur the Americans on to want to win even more than they usually do. I think Montgomerie's captaincy will end in tears, which is a shame, as I am hoping to shell out the best part of a grand to get down there to watch, if I'm successful in the ticket ballot of course.

  • Comment number 8.

    Do we know why Luke Donald's brother has moved on to pastures new with Paul Casey?

  • Comment number 9.

    The Donald brothers apparently split to preserve their sibling relationship, which was being put under strain by the working relationship. That's the story. Maybe Luke's wife chased him down the road with a golf club at 2am?

  • Comment number 10.

    Need some of the big names getting into that top ten this year like Stenson, Garcia and Rose so Monty can pick his best wild cards. Cant wait for the Ryder Cup just hope the weather is not to bad.

  • Comment number 11.

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