Why do we like certain people in the public eye more than others? Perhaps the perennial sense that we feel we know these people, despite the fact we’ve never met them, colours our judgement, but for whatever reason some sportsmen, actors or simply personalities are indelibly marked with the genuine affection of the general public. One such person is Colin Montgomerie.
Perhaps it’s Monty’s avuncular persona, perhaps its because we British appreciate the pathos of a talent that never quite reaches its potential – either way the perception that Colin Montgomerie is good, decent human being extends way beyond the bounds of those actually in the know. For years Montgomerie was emblematic of British golf – kindly, good natured, talented but without the temperament to make a dent on the annals of such a prestigious game. Thankfully, for us and for the emotionally fragile Scot, that has all changed. Colin Montgomery has won the Ryder Cup as Captain of Europe.
Coming in to the first, historic Monday in Ryder Cup history Monty must have felt that if his chance at golfing immortality should slip by, with fate casting him as the loveable loser yet again, then he was truly destined to never taste unalloyed success. Three points up, five required. The law of averages suggested victory was a certainty. It was a lot closer than that.
After the brilliant Westwood stuttered against Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods reminded the world that he was the greatest golfer that has ever played the game, dark and ominous clouds must have been gathering on the horizon of Colin’s consciousness. There was no need to worry. Monty had made a truly inspired decision leaving the ever dependable Graeme McDowell in the anchor role. Rickie Fowler, an prodigously talented 21 year old with the unfortunate face and hair of a Fisher Price character, made three superb birdies on the spin against Edoardo Molinari to nick an unlikely half and, given the dead rubber that was Padraig Harrington against Zach Johnson, take the competition to the final singles match. The man known as G-Mac did the rest, showing the steel that Monty has never possessed to close out the cup and cement his reputation as one of Britain’s premier sportsman of the last decade. Passionate yet unflappable, the Portrush native is a tremendous talent – deployed perfectly by his captain.
Montgomerie has wisely stood down from his role as captain already. Nothing can surpass the drama of this weekend in South Wales. The only thing that could be achieved from another captaincy is to tarnish the perfect memories of an incredible weekend. Jose Maria Olazabal is now favourite to suceed Montgomery. He could learn more than a thing or two from this year’s captain. There was no Faldo like posturing, no new age attempts at cultivating team moral with DJ Spoony absent and a wealth of experienced, brilliant pros in his place. That decision they can replicate. The sheer desire to play and win for a captain is a little harder to engineer amongst a group of sheltered, self involved millionaires.
Perhaps it all comes back to a simple likeability. The aloofness of Faldo could not inspire the best from his players in the way that Montgomerie’s simple charm could. That coupled with a tactical acumen that many suggested he would be lacking and the Scot found a formula to gain victory against a superb US side. Thankfully we will never see Montgomerie as Captain again – but what a Captain he was.