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Ryder Cup Monty braced for latest battle

by Sam Sheringham, for CNN
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Torrance interviews Montgomerie
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Colin Montgomerie tells Living Golf he wants to play in 2012 Ryder Cup
  • Monty is preparing to captain Europe in this year's event at Celtic Manor in October
  • Montgomerie is unbeaten in eight Ryder Cup singles matches and holed winning putt in 2004
  • Montgomerie says he has to "leave out winners" in strong European team

(CNN) -- If there's one golfer worthy of the moniker "Mr Ryder Cup", it's Colin Montgomerie.

There seems to be something about the biennial team dual between Europe and the United States that brings the very best out of the Scot.

Indeed, while serial major winners Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have mediocre Ryder Cup records, Monty, who has never won one of golf's four biggest individual tournaments, is one of the event's all-time greats.

In eight Ryder Cups, he has never lost a singles' match, while his overall record of 23.5 points in 36 matches puts him second behind Nick Faldo on the all-time list of highest point-scorers.

Often grumpy and combustible on the course during individual tournaments -- many a photographer has felt the force of his fury - Ryder Cup Monty is smiley and gregarious.

He was the life-and-soul of the European team which won five Ryder Cups out of six between 1995 and 2006, and his omission for the 2008 event coincided with a crushing 16.5-11.5 defeat for Faldo's European team at Valhalla.

Now 47, Montgomerie will be Europe's non-playing captain as they look to wrest back the trophy at Celtic Manor, Wales, from October 1-3.

Talking to former Ryder Cup player and captain Sam Torrance for CNN's Living Golf show, Montgomerie was clearly relishing the challenge, but he also revealed that he hasn't given up hope of playing in the rematch two years later.

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He was the guy you would put against their best player and you would get a result
--Bernard Gallacher on Montgomerie
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"Having missed out on the last one and then of course missing out on this one because of the captaincy, I am determined to try to make the team in 2012," said the eight-time European number one. "I'll be 49 then but there's a chance."

Montgomerie's love affair with the Ryder Cup -- which dates back to 1927 --began in 1991 at Kiawah Island when as a rookie he fought back from four down with four to play against Mark Calcavecchia to gain a half in the final day singles.

In the infamous 'Battle of Brookline' in 1999, Montgomerie was subjected to such fierce personal abuse from spectators that his father decided to leave the course.

But after showing remarkable self-control in defeat, a fired-up Montgomerie went on to inspire Europe to resounding victories in the next three editions, holing the winnings putt at Oakland Hills in 2004.

He formed formidable partnerships with Faldo and Germany's Bernhard Langer, the latter duo winning five of their seven matches together.

Bernard Gallacher, who captained Montgomerie in the 1991, 93 and 95 events, remembers a fierce competitor who was motivated by a desire to get one over the Americans.

"In the past there was always a feeling that the Americans were a little bit better," Gallacher told CNN. "But Monty always had a strong belief that he could win it.

"He was the guy you would put against their best player and you would get a result. Everyone wanted to be his partner - Nick almost insisted on playing with Colin.

"He has a very strong passion for the Ryder Cup -- he likes the whole week, the camaraderie, the ambiance.

"It's the one week in the year when you are all together, it's a good social occasion, you are all pulling for each other. He thrives under those conditions."

Since he was named captain in 2009, Montgomerie has carried on playing on the European Tour, giving him time to meet with potential team members and assess the array of talent at his disposal.

Whatever happens, I am going to have to leave out winners here
--Colin Montgomerie

And the Scot believes this is a crucial difference with his predecessor Faldo, who is now based in the U.S. as a television commentator.

"I think we found that the last captain wasn't quite involved with the players, commentating as he was in States," said Montgomerie. "There are younger players coming in now all the time, it's becoming a younger sport all the time and that gap is widening."

With 10 Europeans in the world's top 20 players, Montgomerie believes his team will go into the match as favorites. But with so much talent on his disposal, the captain believes his toughest task will be deciding who to leave out.

By the end of August, Montgomerie must choose three wildcard picks to compliment the nine players who qualify automatically through the world and European money lists.

Three-time major winner Padraig Harrington, Spain's Sergio Garcia and English trio Paul Casey, Luke Donald and Justin Rose are all currently outside the automatic places, and Montgomerie is hoping a strong showing from some of his bigger names at next week's U.S. PGA Championship can spare him some very difficult decisions.

"You would expect the Harringtons and the Caseys to come through," he said. "That's what the captain wants. But whatever happens, I am going to have to leave out winners here."

In two year's time, it could be Montgomerie's name that's being touted once again as a possible wildcard. But does Gallacher think his former talisman would be up to the task?

"He's certainly got the game, but whether he's got the motivation to grind it out and make the team, only Colin will know," said Gallacher. "But he's good enough for sure."