European Ryder Cup success driven by 'moral code', says Montgomerie

By Andrew Both
FILE PHOTO: Golf-British Open - Scotland's Colin Montgomerie plays his approach on the second hole during the first round - Royal Troon, Scotland, Britain - 14/07/2016. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne Picture Supplied by Action Images/File Photo

By Andrew Both

CARY, North Carolina (Reuters) - Ryder Cup great Colin Montgomerie dispelled suggestions that European teams are always one big happy family but said that everyone abides by the unwritten rule that any issues should be discussed in private.

Montgomerie said he was surprised that American Patrick Reed had publicly criticized his Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk and team mate Jordan Spieth after the United States were thrashed by Europe in Paris 11 days ago.

Reed told the New York Times that he had expected to partner Spieth, with whom he had successfully teamed up in the competition two years ago, and had been blindsided when they were split up in Paris.

“I could be on to you all day about what goes on in the team room in the Ryder Cup and what’s been said and what hasn’t been said, but I would never ever breach that code to say anything,” Montgomerie told Reuters in an interview on the eve of the 50-and-over SAS Championship, where he is defending champion.

"Every captain’s made some odd decisions and whatever but it doesn’t really matter. You’re playing for the team and anything that goes on behind those closed doors should stay behind those closed doors. That’s our moral code anyway."

Montgomerie identified the prime reason why Europe has dominated the Ryder Cup over the past three decades, particularly at home, where it has won six in a row.

Six-times major winner Nick Faldo was hardly everyone’s best friend, and neither was Montgomerie, or Sergio Garcia for that matter.

Garcia and likely 2020 European captain Padraig Harrington endured a frosty relationship for years but when it was time to step up for the Ryder Cup, they were united in a cause bigger than themselves.

“Oh my God (we) were playing for each other,” said Montgomerie, a Scot who compiled an outstanding Ryder Cup record of 20 wins, nine losses and seven halves.

He never lost in singles and also captained the European team to victory in 2010.

“We’re all pulling together because we play golf, not because we like each other particularly," he said.

"It’s like in any business, any company, you probably wouldn’t socialize with 95 percent of your colleagues at work but once every two years you do, and you get on with it, and you play for the cause, which is trying to get 14-1/2 points."

MICKELSON WOES

Assessing the 2018 American team, Montgomerie wondered whether Phil Mickelson should have withdrawn from the team to make way for someone in better form.

Mickelson was a captain’s pick but lost both of his matches on a course that did not suit his game.

“Phil, you have to ask questions about his form coming into it,” Montgomerie said.

“I remember... Sandy Lyle in 1989 when Tony Jacklin picked him and Sandy said I’m not really playing very well, please (pick) somebody else Tony.

“Possibly that would have been the thing to do for Phil, knowing the course set-up as well. Phil needs a more wide open course, as he’s said himself. The course should have been known by the captain and the players.”

Mickelson, 48, and Tiger Woods, 42, are the two premier players of their generation, but both have shockingly poor Ryder Cup records, and Montgomerie wondered whether their days might be done in the biennial event.

"Have Woods and Mickelson played their last Ryder Cups? We’ll see," Montgomerie said.

"Everything has to come to an end."

(Reporting by Andrew Both, editing by Pritha Sarkar)