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Khan should have been handed place in US Open

Colin Montgomerie, the Ryder Cup captain, yesterday took a swipe at the United States Golf Association for not stepping in to give the BMW PGA champion Simon Khan an immediate invitation to play in next month’s US Open at Pebble Beach.

The 46-year-old Scot also courted further controversy by criticising the Wentworth whingers, including Lee Westwood and Paul Casey, who are liable to be an important part of his team.

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Montgomerie was speaking at Gleneagles at a media day for the Johnnie Walker Championship in August, the event that will conclude with him announcing his three captain’s picks for the Ryder Cup in Wales in October, and he reckoned the USGA’s inaction could have a detrimental effect on his team.

Pointing out that the major championships are key events for the formation of his 12-man team, he said it was sad that Khan will not be playing in it after heading straight from Wentworth to Walton Heath for the international qualifier and missing a play-off for the last spots by one shot.

“You feel that after his win, the USGA might have invited him to play and not made him try to qualify. Unfortunately ,that wasn’t the case. He did well to come out that morning and shoot 67. It was a great effort and unfortunately he missed the play-off because to get into the Ryder Cup team playing in the majors is a definite advantage.

Montgomerie played with Khan in the third round, having been equal with him in 30th place at the halfway stage. While the Scot went backwards, Khan triumphed with rounds of 71 and 66.

“That was a fantastic performance on a difficult course, and I think criticism of the course was unfounded,” said Montgomerie, who effectively
was giving a rap on the knuckles to Casey and Westwood, the latter having also been outspoken over the condition of the PGA Centenary course at Gleneagles, venue for the 2014 Ryder Cup, which has since been subject to a programme of improvements.

“It was a modern test and much better than it was before. I think some players were too quick to criticise. The new Wentworth course will take a few years to mature, settle down and develop.

“Criticism usually comes from people who have played badly. I don’t think Simon Khan is complaining about the course, nor Fredrik Andersson Hed [who was joint runner-up], nor our own Scots Stephen Gallacher and Paul Lawrie [fourth and joint sixth respectively].

“You find the complaints come from the people who haven’t done so well and that doesn’t add up. It is very rare for someone coming off having shot 66 to start complaining about the course. Every course is different and we have to adapt to the situations given to us.”

Casey and Westwood might have grievances about Montgomerie’s remarks. Casey’s comments, suggesting there should be listed courses to control the excesses of owners, were made before the tournament started, and Westwood’s about the revamped 18th came in response to questions. It was constructive criticism which has been taken on board by Wentworth, who will now be tweaking the 18th as a result.

Looking ahead to the Johnnie Walker Championship on August 26 to 29, Montgomerie, who is chairman of the tournament, said the field would be the strongest yet.

“I foresee No.5 in my team through to No.25 or No.30 playing here and it is in their own interests to do so. If No.30 wins here by 10 shots, he will have a big tick in the right column. It will be noted who is not here, but I would suspect that all of those potential candidates will be here and I will leave a couple of picks to the last minute to allow for what happens in the final round.”

That may yet involve Sergio Garcia who said in the run-up to this week’s Madrid Masters that he was playing so poorly he wouldn’t advise he is picked. “Any team without Sergio Garcia is a weaker one and by definition any team with him in is stronger,” said Montgomerie, who made it clear he wants the Spaniard in his side and having failed to qualify for the US Open will be travelling to Pebble Beach to observe and plans to have a chat with Garcia there.

“I do feel that Sergio’s form will turn around and he will be a great asset to the team. There are three majors to go before the selection. You can see the passion he has for the event and I am sure that will shine through towards the end of the season. If he hasn’t qualified automatically, I have three choices and I’m glad I have that one extra option for the likes of someone of his calibre.”

On the formation of the United States team, he agreed with Jack Nicklaus who said this week that the US captain Corey Pavin “would need a brain scan” if he did not have the troubled world No.1 Tiger Woods in his side.

“I would say it is 90-10 in favour of him playing. I just can’t see him not playing in the Ryder Cup,” said Montgomerie, who altered his assessment when asked about Nicklaus’ view. “I can go 99-1 if you want,” he added to laughter.

“If he gets over his problems and does compete in the Ryder Cup, I think it will be a bigger and better event and I think that it would be a bigger and better win for Europe with him against us.”

As for his own future after the Ryder Cup, Montgomerie was, as usual, the eternal optimist. “I will go back to the backbenches and start trying to get my game back in shape to try to qualify for the 2012 Ryder Cup team. That’s the goal,” he said.

“No European Ryder Cup captain has played in the Ryder Cup after he has been captain. I want to be first to do that.”

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