You would have to think that the Johnnie Walker Championship, which starts at Gleneagles on Thursday, is not going to be a ball of fun for Colin Montgomerie.
With this the last counting tournament for the Ryder Cup, it calls for the captain’s full attention. The Scot must finalise his wild-cards before announcing his team to the world on Sunday night – a tough task even if he had nothing else on his mind. As it is, Monty cannot be anything other than preoccupied with Monty as he worries lest more questions are raised about his private life.
When the latest version of his troubles came to light, he was at Whistling Straits. Now, he is uncomfortably close to home – 15 minutes away to be precise.
Yet, there are a couple of issues which, though they would normally be a source of some concern, are helping to keep the heat off him. Firstly, the admittedly late-in-the-day news that Thomas Bjorn, one of his vice-captains, has fathered a child out of wedlock and, secondly, the seemingly somewhat casual attitude towards the Ryder Cup of some of his more popular players. Though Montgomerie asked that those on the borderline should come back and play at Gleneagles, none among Padraig Harrington, Paul Casey, Luke Donald and Justin Rose are making the trip. Again, Rhys Davies, a wild-card possible because he is a Welshman who has been playing well, pulled out of last week’s Czech Open because he was tired. He also explained that his main goal was to win tournaments.
No doubt the plan will be for Ryder Cup officialdom to pretend that all is well and to plough on regardless. As for Montgomerie, he can either continue to brazen it out – as he did at an Aberdeen Asset Management Company day which went with a swing at Archerfield last week – or he could proceed with what some believe would be the wiser course of action. Namely, one of making a cleaner breast of what has gone on by way of a starting point for moving forward.
What we heard from Whistling Straits – a succinct statement as to how his private life is private – did not help to get anyone on-side. It was only after Tiger Woods confessed to assorted transgressions that he started his climb back. True, it was some time before the better vibes began to surface but they are out there now. Arguably, the first good sign came when he put his children before himself as he flew from Ireland to Florida for the weekend before returning for the Open.
He and Montgomerie, of course, have more than a little in common. Instead of doing as others in going a little off track in their teens and 20s, they plunged into rather deeper water at a later date. Woods in his 30s and Montgomerie in his 40s.
Montgomerie was an innocent abroad during his first marriage. On paper, he was a good husband. He did not drink, he did not womanise. Yet he was hooked on his golf to the point where not too much else – and that includes his then wife, Eimear – got his full attention. He won tournament after tournament across the 1990s and, though he would take a cake home with him when he won, that would mark the beginning and end of the celebrations.
When Eimear decided she had had enough, Montgomerie was shocked and shattered. He eventually had a brief fling with a model who played in the Dunhill. In its aftermath, there was the suspicion that he was not as embarrassed as he might have been by the chattering interest of some of his younger colleagues.
Because, unlike Tiger, he has so far failed to deliver any kind of humble “mea culpa.” Monty is in limbo and so, too, are those who are more saddened than amused by his plight. All the talk about super-injunctions has almost certainly had the effect of prompting people’s imaginings to run a whole lot wilder than whatever might be in the photograph he so wants to keep under wraps.
Most want to see him pull back from the brink because they have witnessed the good side to this Jekyll and Hyde character.
They also recognise that he has the qualities it takes to be a useful captain. His speeches will be first class once he starts peppering them with a bit of humour. Again, he has what it takes to cope with all the socialising involved. George O’Grady, the CEO of the European Tour, has more than once said that top sponsors, when they are asked to nominate who they would like as a partner in a pro-am situation, mostly opt for Monty.
It is not difficult to see why. On one occasion, he was asked to shepherd three Japanese captains of industry, none of whom could speak a word of English and none of whom could play.
Most of Montgomerie’s professional colleagues would have gritted their teeth and wished the day away. Monty, though, succeeded in giving these people the time of their lives. He made contact with them via his clubs, giving a series of cheerful demonstrations of what they should and should not be doing.
That was the stuff of a good leader.