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Friday 17 August 2018

Monty always in captain's mould

Back in '95, Scot showed his leadership qualities

COLIN Montgomerie was destined to become a Ryder Cup captain. He even showed signs of it at Oak Hill Country Club in 1995 when he was always in the thick of things.

I remember on the Saturday night he was in the mix with Sam Torrance, Ian Woosnam and Bernard Gallacher discussing the line-up for Sunday's singles. Monty was playing in his third event having lost in Kiawah Island in 1991 and at The Belfry in 1993. Here he was, holding his own in Rochester with a group of three Ryder Cup legends -- each having played eight times in their own right -- selecting the order of play for Sunday.

Veteran Seve Ballesteros was a bit like a school teacher and could be very fussy about details at times. On a couple of occasions I saw that side of him and it's not a place you really want to be too often.

Ian Woosnam and I were friends and he gave me great advice all week. Constantino Rocca just smiled and laughed the whole time and was a breath of fresh air lightening the mood all the time.

Mark James was also funny and not always the way he comes across in his TV commentary. Along with Howard Clark and David Gilford, they made the team room pretty relaxed for a rookie.

Which was the exact opposite to Nick Faldo. But he was a winner with two Open titles and a Masters so naturally had a big influence on things. In fairness to Faldo, it was his point against Curtis Strange -- after being a hole down with two to play -- that made our team win possible and gave my match such unexpected importance.

The daily routine was pretty straightforward -- a 5.30am start everyday with a buffet breakfast before heading out on the course for 8.0. There was a daily team meeting at 7.0pm and dinner about half an hour later. The meetings were generally not more than 15 to 20 minutes long. Dinner lasted about an hour -- with no alcohol -- all very strict until Sunday, of course, when we won. The big thing you noticed, though, was that towards the end of the week the tension would start to drain your energy and rest was vital. Otherwise by Sunday you would be frazzled for your singles.

The team room was simple with a blackboard used only for key messages that the captain or players wanted to make at any stage.

On the Saturday evening I arrived a few minutes late for the last team meeting and got a stern rebuke from Ballesteros as I took my seat. When he was finished I just stood up, walked over to the board and wrote "Tomorrow we will win" returning to my seat without saying a word. The scene was set for Sunday at that point for me -- I had to win.

Team captain Bernard Gallacher was funny and his style was all in that vein. He was always around but never in the way of things. On the practice days, though, I felt conscious he was watching me and I made some average shots at times that might have affected his pairings for the opening day.

When Bernhard Langer and Per-Ulrik Johansson won their morning foursomes, Gallacher decided to play them again in the afternoon fours-ball, despite having told Ian Woosnam and myself to be ready to go out. For some reason he changed his mind at the last minute. In interviews since Gallacher has admitted that he thought the Ryder Cup was lost on the point Langer/Johansson gave up that afternoon and that it would prove pivotal for him. In the end it didn't -- much to his relief and ours.

But he was a good captain and on the last hole when I was in the rough Bernard came up to me to check if everything was all right. When I said things were grand he moved on and left me alone to play my five wood into the green.

Despite any misgivings about Faldo, he was a winner and the victory in 1995 reminded him of Europe's first success on US soil in 1987, which Seve and Faldo were part of at Muirfield Village. At the time I didn't fully understand their emotions and tears on the 18th green. But I do now. Both men understood that winning is a habit that doesn't last forever.

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