Tuesday, August 9

Reputation on the line

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Captain Monty looks for Ryder Cup boost at Royal Trophy

BANGKOK: Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie will put his reputation on the line when he leads Europe into battle against holders Asia in this week’s Royal Trophy.

The 46-year-old, one of the greatest Ryder Cup players of all time, is backing his matchplay expertise by agreeing to play as well as skipper Europe at Amata Spring Country Club from tomorrow.

Asia thumped Europe 10-6 last year after losing the first two editions of the tournament in 2006 and 2007 and will field a strong team, including the poster boy of Asian golf, Ryo Ishikawa of Japan.

Europe have lost Germany’s Martin Kaymer, a two-time winner last season, and Alvaro Quiros of Spain from the original eight-man line-up although Montgomerie can call on Swedish big guns Henrik Stenson and Robert Karlsson, Ryder Cup teammates in 2006 and 2008.

Montgomerie accepted the dual role of captain and player from tournament creator Seve Ballesteros after the Spanish legend decided he was not fit enough to skipper Europe after undergoing chemotherapy following brain surgery.

Ballesteros guided Europe to their two victories before handing over the reins to Jose Maria Olazabal last year, who failed to deliver the “pick-me-up” that he had promised.

“Seve invited me to captain Europe at the Royal Trophy — it will be an excellent opportunity for me to spend time with some key players who are likely to be with me at Celtic Manor in October for the Ryder Cup,” said Montgomerie.

“I am really pleased to be representing Europe in Thailand and am determined to regain the Royal Trophy for Europe. It would be wonderful to secure victory for Seve.”

Ballesteros believes that the Royal Trophy “will grow into one of the world’s most important events” and his appointment of Montgomerie as playing captain has given the tournament added significance in global golf.

“I have the utmost confidence that he will lead our players with the greatest ability, passion and determination,” he said.

World number seven Stenson and Karlsson, Europe’s leading player in 2008, are an obvious pairing given their fourball and foursomes experience in the World Cup and Ryder Cup.

Fellow Swedes Alexander Noren, the winner of the European Masters last season, and Peter Hanson are also in the line-up along with England’s Simon Dyson, who hit the headlines with two victories on the European Tour in 2009.

Soren Kjeldsen of Denmark and Spain’s Pablo Martin make up the team.

Ishikawa was Asia’s secret weapon last year as he was making his first professional appearance outside of Japan but Montgomerie will know all about his huge potential as he played in three Majors later in 2009.

“We all know that the Europeans will be fully committed to defeat us this time around but I am very confident about my game and about the capability of the Asian team,” said Ishikawa.

Asian captain Naomichi ‘Joe’ Ozaki has kept faith with the Thai duo of Thongchai Jaidee and Prayad Marksaeng, PGA Tour regular Charlie Wi of Korea and China’s leading player Liang Wen-chong from last year’s winning side.

They are joined by Indian pairJeev Milkha Singh and rising star Gaganjeet Bhullar, and Japan’s Koumei Oda.

The Royal Trophy features alternate shot foursomes, fourball and singles matches. — AFP