This Ryder Cup could turn nasty… just like the Battle of Brookline, warns Monty
21:13 GMT, 23 September 2012
Colin Montgomerie is worried that Europe's golfers could this week face the most hostile atmosphere a Ryder Cup has seen since the infamous events at Brookline 13 years ago.
The man who captained the Continent to victory at Celtic Manor in 2010 is calling for the inevitable patriotic home support at Medinah, just outside Chicago, to be sufficiently restrained that it avoids any repeat of past Ryder Cup excesses, although there is a danger that might not happen.
‘There is a risk,’ he said. ‘I think that what you find is that playing away from home in America when they want it back is a difficult place to play golf and I do hope that everyone realises that and allows the Europeans to play to their potential. Unfortunately, on the Sunday of the Ryder Cup in 1999, that wasn’t available to us.
Patriot games: The USA team runs onto the 17th green in unsavoury scenes at Brookline in 1999 after Justin Leonard holed a putt that all but won the Ryder Cup
Fever pitch: The intimidating atmosphere at Brookline is infamous
‘I think the world changed — I mean the Ryder Cup and sporting events in which America played internationally — changed after 9/11. America realised we were their allies. But time moves on, everything moves on and I have a slight fear that it is going to be very difficult for us Europeans to perform to our potential.’
Montgomerie, who this year will be there in his role as an analyst with Sky Sports, believes that his successor Jose Maria Olazabal is equipped to cope with the different pressures of being captain in an away match, even if the venue outside Chicago seems the most friendless place.
‘If it does happen we’ve got the best guy in Olazabal to cope with it,’ said Montgomerie. ‘I’ve played four of these Ryder Cups away from home. They are tough, they are harder. He understands that, he’s played four away from home as well so understands that it’s not going to be easy.
‘We’re not just thinking, “We all play in America, Luke Donald lives in Chicago and they like him, and Rory and Lee as well”.
Beware: Even Rory McIlroy won't be spared by the home crowd, says Monty
‘No, no, this is the Ryder Cup, this is different and we’re not silly enough not to realise this. It’s going to be hard, very hard for everybody to perform to their ability in an atmosphere they haven’t experienced. It will be foreign to a lot of the guys who haven’t played in a Ryder Cup in America before – Francesco Molinari, Peter Hanson, Nicolas Colsaerts – and it is very different.’
Montgomerie offers just one piece of advice to Olazabal — not to go into the match with rigid thoughts. He said: ‘Just one thing that I would say to him is he has to be flexible. You can’t go with say Graeme McDowell playing with Rory McIlroy all the time, you just can’t go with that one scenario, you’ve got to be flexible. I had a problem when I put Ian Poulter with Ross Fisher and it didn’t work that first morning, didn’t ignite any fire, so I had to change them and be flexible.’
Whatever the outside pressures, Montgomerie expects the closest of contests: ‘I think the two teams this year are extremely evenly matched. If you look at the world rankings they are pretty even, the things that they’ve done,’ he said.
‘I therefore would have to take the Americans as slight favourites because of where they’re playing and that’s all. It’s difficult to win there and the last three Ryder Cups have been won by the home teams. I think I would slightly favour by half a point the Americans because of where it’s played.
‘It could even be a tie which would be great because that means we’d retain it.’