Ryder Cup: Montgomerie fears hostile crowd could ‘target’ players
COLIN Montgomerie, the target of abuse from fans the last time the Ryder Cup was played in one of America’s sporting hotbeds, is concerned the atmosphere could turn hostile towards the Europeans in Chicago this week.
Montgomerie, the winning captain in Wales two years ago, is working for Sky Sports this time around. He was singled out by beer-fuelled home supporters at Brookline in 1999 and, speaking at a European team meeting at last month’s USPGA Championship, Paul Lawrie, who partnered his fellow Scot in Boston, said Montgomerie had been the subject of “dog’s abuse”.
That followed the infamous “War on the Shore” at Kiawah Island in 1991, when Corey Pavin and Steve Pate wore camouflage hats during a contest that took place during the Gulf War.
Montgomerie believes empathy over the events of 9/11 fostered a better atmosphere at the last two matches in America, at Oakland Hills in Detroit and Valhalla, Kentucky. However, he is anxious about the treatment that could be handed out to the visiting team at Medinah in a city that is famed for having some of the most passionate sports fans in the United States.
Montgomerie said: “There is a risk [of a hostile atmosphere]. The world changed after 9/11, as did the Ryder Cup and other international events America played. America realised we were their great allies but that was 11 years ago.
“Everything moves on and I have a slight fear that it is going to be very difficult for us Europeans to perform to our potential – on the Sunday in 1999 that wasn’t available to us.”
Montgomerie reckons he was targeted at Brookline, where the emotions of the home team spilled over as players ran on to the 17th green after Justin Leonard holed an important putt in his singles match, because he was a threat to the Americans.
That mantle has been taken over by Ian Poulter in the last two matches and Montgomerie believes the flamboyant Englishman could be singled out by American fans this week.
Montgomerie added: “I hope nobody is targeted the way that some players were in ’99.
“I hope those days are behind us and that the etiquette of the game shines through and not anything else. But he [Poulter] opens himself up for being more of a target than most because of his attitude and fist-pumping the air all the time. If Ian is pinpointed, I don’t have any worries as the one person that can handle it is Ian Poulter.”
Montgomerie also reckons the Europeans couldn’t have a better man at the helm than Jose Maria Olazabal if things do turn nasty, the Spaniard having shown remarkable resolve to keep his cool during that incident 13 years ago, when he was the player facing Leonard on the controversial last day.
“If something does happen this time, we’ve got the best guy in Olazabal to cope with it. He will deal with it in a very professional and diplomatic way.
“He’s played in four of these matches away from home and he’ll understand they are harder.
“He won’t be going into this match in a false position of thinking that, just because Luke Donald lives in Chicago and the Americans like Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood, it’s going to be easy. This is the Ryder Cup, this is different.
“The likes of Francesco Molinari, Peter Hanson and Nicolas Colsaerts haven’t played in an American Ryder Cup before and it is very, very different.”
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