Faldo kicks off silly season
Nick Faldo's first real machinations as European Ryder Cup captain have sparked outrage, incredulity, even fury.
And some people disagreed with him. The debate that has accompanied his wildcard picks of Ian Poulter and to a lesser extent Paul Casey marks the beginning of two weeks of feverish pontificating, speculating and ruminating before the competition kicks off at Valhalla on 19 September.
And it's not just his picks that have caused consternation. The manner of Faldo during his news conference has riled plenty of you, though the six-time major champion has always polarised opinion.
His Del Boy impression from Only Fools and Horses didn't endear him to some. Apparently he phoned his friend Poulter and said, "Oi, Raquel, put your overcoat on. It's time to go to the Ryder Cup."
Then there was his call to Montgomerie to break the bad news. There was no reply, probably because Monty was "watching football or shopping", according to Faldo. Ouch.
Some feel he was less than expansive with his answers to the questions fired at him by the assembled golfing media, such as what more did Clarke need to do to make the team.
But before we all get our niblicks in a twist, it's worth remembering that we always get this sort of hoo-ha in the weeks before the Ryder Cup.
Remember Ian Woosnam around the time of his picks? Ignoring his actual selections (Clarke and Lee Westwood) there was plenty of debate about how he handled himself.
Thomas Bjorn, who was overlooked for Westwood, labelled Woosnam "pathetic", and moaned that the Welshman hadn't communicated with the players. Us observers worried about Woosie's man-management and general PR skills.
But, ultimately, none of it mattered. His team won a handsome victory and the Little Fella got through it OK in his own sort of way - apart from snotting champagne bubbles out of his nose during the balcony celebrations at the end.
As for Monty, it's a moot point now as to whether or not he would have been a good selection. We'll never know.
Life moves on, eras end and there will always be new heroes. But I would have had to think very long and very hard before leaving him out.
Clearly his form hasn't been great, which is one of the reasons why he wasn't picked (there are others of course, to do with his relationship with Faldo). But strokeplay is a completely different kettle of ball games to matchplay.
And Montgomerie has proved over the years that in Ryder Cup terms he is worth far more than the sum of his tournament results in the qualifying year.
He is unbeaten in eight singles matches, and, anyway, he would have had the luxury of a partner to help out if he really was struggling.
His poor form meant he needed a wildcard before, of course, from Bernhard Langer at Oakland Hills in 2004. And he ended up sinking the winning putt. If we thought then that this was the finale to his story we were wrong, as we discovered two years ago.
I was privileged to be at the K Club, and two things struck me about Montgomerie.
The first, after attending plenty of team news conferences, is that I got the impression that some members of the team regarded him as a slightly odd older brother. But there was absolutely no doubt that they all looked up to him as the bedrock of the side and wouldn't have traded him for anyone.
Second, was the emotion and collective feeling towards him from the massed ranks of fans as Montgomerie led Europe off in the singles on Sunday morning.
Before the off, I watched Monty bashing balls on the range in the pouring rain before following him to the putting green.
After 10 minutes or so, he gave a quick nod to his caddie and set off towards the 1st tee. The extraordinary roar that built as he walked the 100 yards was like a freight train booming up from deep underground before thundering onto the tee.
Monty has his detractors, but there's no doubt the whole of Europe was behind the big man at that point and the responsibility he shouldered for his team was huge.
Out and about in Dublin much later that night, whole pubs were still chanting his name. Not Clarke's or Harrington's or even Sergio's.
Dipping back into his autobiography, one incident summed up just how much Monty has given to the European Ryder Cup cause. It's not here as a plea for his inclusion, just as an interesting aside.
Playing against the late Payne Stewart in the singles, Monty was receiving plenty of barracking, but on one shot all was quiet until he got to the top of his backswing.
Then some clown shouted out a four-letter word. The worst one. The idiot was ejected and Montgomerie turned to the crowd and said, "First to go. If anyone else says that they'll go as well".
"My legs were now shaking," he writes.
He goes on to say that the abuse "sickened Payne only slightly less than it sickened my father. In Dad's eyes it was as if the very game had been defiled. I looked for him after the incident but he had walked back to the clubhouse, his lifelong love of the game having taken an irreparable blow."
Of course, Montgomerie, who won by one hole, has been heckled plenty of times over his career.
But should Valhalla return to somewhere nearer the Brookline levels of "excitement" in 1999, rather than the polite, chummy events of recent times - and with Faldo and Paul Azinger in charge you never know - you wonder whether Montgomerie's (or Clarke's for that matter) experience might not come in handy.
Will the prickly Poulter, for instance, be able to keep his head?
It will be interesting to gauge the atmosphere around the team without either of these two heavyweights in the first couple of days in Valhalla, and I shall of course report back.
Suffice to say that driving into Southport for the Open at Royal Birkdale, and being confronted by marketing pictures of Tiger Woods, my heart sank for a while knowing he wouldn't be there. But we all got over that pretty quickly. As we will with Montgomerie and Clarke's absence in Kentucky.
So, the game is fully on now. We've witnessed Faldo's opening act and drawn our own instant conclusions. We've argued about the team and we'll do the same with the US side.
In the next couple of weeks we'll get caught up in big debates on pairings or suchlike, on shirt/trouser combos and on the uniforms of the wives. And all along we'll discuss the outcome of the match.
There will be myriad more talking points and we'll all be convinced our opinions are right.
And all for a game of golf. But that's why we love the Ryder Cup.