The man who inspired Europe’s victory over the USA at Celtic Manor last year believes he got the job four years ahead of schedule but, rather than hoping for a second stint, he believes he must now step aside.
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“I have to say one name and that would be Paul McGinley,” he said during a promotional visit to Scotland. “He was very good at the Vivendi Trophy [between GB & Ireland and Continental Europe]. I put him in there with Thomas Bjorn as captains and they came out with flying colours; and he was excellent at the Ryder Cup, Paul McGinley.”
Pressed on his own availability for the post, Montgomerie outlined how he had been persuaded to take the job in 2010 when attending a European Tour meeting at which he had expected others to be put forward.
“I was due to captain the team . . . it was all set really for 2014 and that was the target,” he said. “I came in with a name of a captain who I thought it should be and it went around the room and then Henrik Stenson stood up and he said: ‘We have a captain in the room, what are we talking about?’ I looked at him and we looked at everybody else and he mentioned my name.
“It was a surreal occasion; when you are offered at that stage then you don’t decline ever. When you are offered the captaincy of the Ryder Cup team, you take it.”
Yet he almost immediately contradicted himself. “Having done it now in Europe, I think it’s only right that it should go to others who can do the job as well as, if not better than, I did. Especially having won it, fortunately, the time is [right] to say ‘no’, whether I am asked for Gleneagles or not. I think I should leave that to someone else to do; I’ll go to Gleneagles as an ambassador, or whatever it is and enjoy us hopefully winning it again for the third time in a row.”
He then went on to suggest that the Ryder Cup captaincy is becoming a younger man’s job. “I’m saying it was early [for him] but Seve [Ballesteros] was 41 when he captained the Ryder Cup team in 1997,” Montgomerie noted.
“I was 47 and I was the second-youngest captain ever. So it is becoming younger and I think it’s right that it does stay the magic under-50 now. I think it was a benefit for myself and for all the vice- captains to be current players on the European Tour and playing with the likes of our team. There were not 12 on that team, there were actually 17 of us with the vice-captains and myself.
“I would be 51 by the time Gleneagles comes around and I think that would be slightly out of the playing set, so I think it is only right that it goes to a younger guy. So I would say ‘no’. I wouldn’t do that again, no. That’s that done, it’s been won and it’s fantastic.
Montgomerie expressed the hope, however, that with no Scot having made it on to the Ryder Cup team since his own last appearance as a player in 2006, there will be representation on the home team when the competition returns to the home of golf “I’d love to see a Scot playing at home. It would be a great shame if there wasn’t, of course it would,” he said. “We don’t want the same situation we had at Celtic Manor with no Scot in the 2014 team. We want at least one. We have potential out there on Tour and I just hope it is realised. I think it’s going to happen and we just have to be patient. That’s a definite goal.”
He did make the point, however, that it is increasingly difficult to get to the top in the sport.
“We are going through a slight dip, but we are a small nation and we have to get that into perspective,” he said of the shortage of Scots at the upper end of the world rankings. There are only four majors a year and expectation has got away from us. I have been runner-up in five. It’s difficult to win a major. We talk about these major champions of the future, but let’s get downto realistic goals and let’s win a number of European titles.”
The eight-time European Tour Order of Merit winner was speaking at a forum organised by Aberdeen Asset Management, who sponsor golf development programmes and for whom he is an ambassador.