Originally created 08/15/04

Montgomerie won't let go of Ryder Cup dreams



HAVEN, Wis. - The golfer Americans love to hate is ready to resume his role as a Ryder Cup nemesis.

Colin Montgomerie, 41, has surged back into the European team's picture, which is not necesarily good news for a United States squad that has found him hard to beat.

European captain Bernhard Langer has two more weeks before he has to make two wild-card picks, but it seems more and more likely that Monty will figure into the plans one way or another.

Montgomerie is driven by the quest to make his seventh straight team and help Europe defend its Cup at Oakland Hills on Sept. 17-19.

"I think you know me well enough to understand what the Ryder Cup means to me," he said, "and I would love to be a part of that competition."

With Langer already taking himself out of the mix, Montgomerie is the last remaining pillar of the European titans who turned around the Ryder Cup over the past two decades. The European team has won six of nine Cups after a 50-year stretch when the U.S. lost only once in 21 matches.

Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Jose Maria Olazabal have all slipped out of contention for the biennial series in recent years, while Langer opted to focus on being captain and refuses to play.

That leaves only Monty, whose 18.5 career points in the matches rank behind Faldo, Langer and Ballesteros on the all-time list for Europeans. With a 16-7-5 career record - including no losses in six singles matches - Montgomerie's winning percentage of 66 percent tops the European charts.

Langer, who has a 5-1-1 record as a partner with Monty, understands what an asset an in-form Montgomerie can be for the Europeans.

"A huge difference," Langer said. "Colin, when he plays his best can beat anybody. He can be a tower of strength. He's been around for a long time. Guys look up to him. You know, that would be the best thing that could happen to us."

Monty has yet to win a major, and his struggles in the U.S. have been well documented. Yet he has an intangible that makes him the toughest match-play opponent in the world.

"I just have a desire not to lose," he said.

With all of the personal struggles Montgomerie has dealt with in the past year, pursuit of making the Ryder Cup has seemed to elevate his game. He has risen to 18th on one of the two lists that determine the 10 automatic European qualifiers, and his performance in the British Open and making the cut in this week's PGA could take the decision out of Langer's hands and give the captain more latitude with his picks.

"I'm quite proud of myself right now, but I would be more proud if I could possibly get three good finishes in the next three tournaments and qualify for the team," he said. "I'd be very, very proud of myself to do that, because it has been quite difficult."

Other candidates to consider who are not yet qualified are Luke Donald, Alex Cejka, Justin Rose, Fredrik Jacobsen, Thomas Bjorn, Jesper Parnevik and Paul McGinley.

Langer has resisted asking Montgomerie to be an assistant captain because he wanted the Scot to focus on his game and earning a spot on the team.

"I want him on the team as a player," Langer said. "His form is very steady and he's extremely close to being the Colin we know."

Reach Scott Michaux at (706) 823-3221 or scott.michaux@augustachronicle.com.