Bill Bridge: Fear that Montgomerie will explode as pressure grows on Cup captain

AS a man who has lived most of his professional life under the media spotlight as he has made millions without quite winning hearts, Colin Montgomerie ought to be used to adversity but he is now facing a crisis of unprecedented gravity.

Christened "Mrs Doubtfire" by former golfer turned commentator David Feherty and known in the press centres of the golfing world as "Montysaurus," the man who took his first strides down the fairways at Ilkley is under mounting pressure to answer questions over his private life following the issuing of an injunction against a national tabloid newspaper last weekend.

Apparently the practice ground at the US PGA Championship at Whistling Straits was alive with jokes regarding Europe's Ryder Cup captain and he had to have the support of Corey Pavin, his American opposite number, to prevent a joint press conference centred on October's match in Wales degenerating into farce.

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Montgomerie has made a few enemies on the golf courses of the world and several well-respected players have been cutting in their assessment of his credentials to lead the European team, so much so that there is mounting pressure on him to do the unthinkable and resign before the Ryder Cup is brought into disrepute by association.

Montgomerie's displeasure was not helped in the second round of the PGA, in all probability his last appearance in a major championship, when he had to sign for a miserable 83, his worst score in any major, having played in the company of Matt Kuchar, one of the bright stars of the American game and a certainty for Celtic Manor, who carded a 69.

Were it not for the Ryder Cup, now would be the perfect time for Montgomerie, pictured, to fly to his Scottish estate, patch up his relationship with his second wife and get on with life after being a golfer.

He will be at the centre of attention almost every day between now and October 3 when the three days on the banks of the Usk come to an end; the question is whether he will be able to handle that pressure, or will he explode?

The PGA, guardians of the Ryder Cup and all its traditions on this side of the Atlantic, refuse to enter the debate; you would not expect them to do otherwise.

But they know what the players are saying in private, that Montgomerie's continued presence, when – as he admits himself – everyone seems to be sniggering at his expense, could become a divisive factor.

Having a captain with worries over whether foibles in his private life – true or false – are about to be made public can hardly be conducive to the necessary clarity of thought.

No Ryder Cup captain has ever resigned ahead of his finest moment and the signs are that Montgomerie has no intention of becoming the first. But that is now and October is still a way away.

FOLLOWING on from success for Britain's athletes in the European Championships in Barcelona, there were more indications expectations might just be matched come London 2012 when a record medal haul in the pool in Budapest signalled that another of the country's flagship sports is in good health.

It is far too early yet to start listing medal prospects for the London Games, not least because strong candidates like Rebecca Adlington performed well below their best in Hungary, but with Gemma Spofforth and Lizzie Simmonds leading the way and others like Liam Tancock, Hannah Miley and Fran Halsall proving their worth, the prospects are exciting.

As with the athletes, though, there is a long way to go and Sheffield's world heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis has surely made the right decision to opt out of competition for the rest of the year and rest.

As anticipation grows, there will be times when our medal hopes have to rein back, maybe disappoint a few spectators and put their Olympic ambitions first.

That is where their coaches and their support teams have a crucial role to play; good advice is often every bit as important as the perfect training schedule. As Adlington said in Budapest: "It's so hard when you are not rested; you are just so sluggish."

Words of wisdom from an Olympic champion, words we should remember as the pressure builds.

MUCH ado was made about little when Fabio Capello unwittingly found himself at the centre of a muddle over David Beckham.

Capello told the world that Beckham's England career was over. Fair enough; the old advertising hoarding is 35 now and his legs gave out a while back.

Capello's mistake was in failing to contact Beckham before making the announcement and compounding that error by offering the sop of a "farewell" match for the fallen idol. Beckham's swatting of the proposal was one of the better moments of a football week in which the Premier League confirmed its status as the temple of tack.

Much more important though – not that it gained much airtime given the "snubbing" of Beckham – was the fact that England took a step forward in their otherwise forgettable victory over Hungary.

In playing Steven Gerrard in central midfield with the freedom to support a sole striker, Capello gave the team a balance they lacked throughout the World Cup.

The rest of the cast may take a little sorting but at least he now knows where Gerrard performs at his best.


FURTHER evidence that our national summer game has lost the plot came at Colwyn Bay, where Glamorgan were playing Lancashire in a 40-over match.

A couple from Stockport travelled for the day's cricket, taking with them – as you would – a picnic lunch. For pudding they planned to enjoy strawberries and cream but then the iron fist of England and Wales Cricket Board regulations hit them.

They were instructed to go through a security check – as though a couple of grandparents posed any threat to public order. The security lady rooted through the couple's hamper and came out with two spoons, to be used on the strawberries.

"You can't take them into the ground," she ordered, to the disbelief of the couple who had taken the self-same spoons into the same arena on several occasions – as well as Lord's – without issue.

An ECB spokeslady confirmed: "Metal cutlery is not allowed into any ground under any circumstances."

What, as Fred Trueman might have wondered, is the game coming to?