At Ryder, Montgomerie is on good behavior


SUTTON COLDFIELD, England - It was the Good Monty who turned up at the Belfry, the polite, engaging, well-spoken minister of golf in Europe and a shining beacon of happiness and good will.

Good Monty is a lot different from Bad Monty, who also has shown up on occasion.

Bad Monty is surly, curt, sarcastic and thoroughly disagreeable. Bad Monty is the one who threatened to pull out of a couple of tournaments to protest his treatment by the media.

Good Monty is the leader of the European Ryder Cup team, the gracious ambassador of the game.

And so it goes at the Ryder Cup, where the dual personalities of Colin Montgomerie showcase a typically unremarkable European team that many believe has a good chance to win back the Ryder Cup when matches begin again tomorrow.

Montgomerie, 39, a Scot, is no longer the best player on Europe's Ryder Cup team. That distinction belongs to 22-year-old Sergio Garcia of Spain and 30-year-old Padraig Harrington of Ireland.

But he is the player the rest are looking up to because of his success in the mind-bending pressure of Ryder Cup competition. He has played a total of 23 matches. Bernhard Langer of Germany has more experience, 38 matches, but it is Good Monty and all he brings to the table who could earn the Ryder Cup a return trip to Europe for the third time in the past four meetings.

"He's obviously one of the strongest players," said Sam Torrance, captain of the European team.

Beginning with his Ryder Cup debut in 1991, Montgomerie is 12-7-4. And if you exclude his 2-3 record at Oak Hill in Rochester, N.Y., in 1995, which was a victory for Europe anyway, Montgomerie's record from the 1993, 1997 and 1999 matches is 9-3-3. He has never lost in singles.

"I just like match play," Montgomerie said. "I like the format and I like the form of it, and I tend to do quite well."

So does Garcia, who was 3-1-1 in his first Ryder Cup at Brookline, Mass., in 1999. He's ranked fourth in the world, he's 3-0-1 teamed with Jesper Parnevik and seems on the brink of superstardom.

Harrington made his Ryder Cup debut at Brookline. He was at his best this year in big events - tie for fifth at the Masters, tie for eighth at the U.S. Open and a tie for fifth at the British Open.

Parnevik, 37, is 4-2-3 in two previous Ryder Cups and was a captain's pick. If Torrance had to do it over again, he probably wouldn't. Parnevik is a combined 41-over par in nine tournaments since the U.S. Open.

Then again, how much does it matter to be playing well right now? "I think form goes out the window," Montgomerie said. "And it's all about who can handle one's self come Friday."

Thomas Bonk is a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

At a glance

What: Ryder Cup

Who: United States vs. Europe

Where: The Belfry, Brabazon Course (7,118 yards, par 72), Sutton Coldfield, England

When: Tomorrow through Sunday

TV: USA (tomorrow, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.) and NBC (Saturday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sunday, 7 a.m.-12:30 p.m.)

Series: United States leads 24-7-2

U.S. roster: Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, David Duval, Mark Calcavecchia, David Toms, Davis Love, Scott Hoch, Jim Furyk, Hal Sutton, Stewart Cink, Scott Verplank, Paul Azinger. Captain: Curtis Strange

European roster:Darren Clarke, Northern Ireland; Thomas Bjorn, Denmark; Padraig Harrington, Ireland; Colin Montgomerie, Scotland; Pierre Fulke, Sweden; Lee Westwood, England; Niclas Fasth, Sweden; Paul McGinley, Ireland; Bernhard Langer, Germany; Phillip Price, Wales; Sergio Garcia, Spain; Jesper Parnevik, Sweden. Captain: Sam Torrance, Scotland

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