NEWPORT, Wales -- The making of highly questionable and often controversial public statements has long been part of his verbal repertoire, of course. But no one was disagreeing with Colin Montgomerie when, in his Wednesday press conference, the European Ryder Cup skipper referred to Seve Ballesteros as "our legend." As part of what Monty hoped would inject just the right amount of "passion" into the sound-proofed team room at Celtic Manor, the Spaniard spoke to the European side for ten minutes via speakerphone from his home in Pedrena on Tuesday evening.
"Paul McGinley, one of my vice-captains, speaks regularly to Seve," explained Montgomerie. "They decided, the two of them, that it would be a good idea if Seve spoke to the team. I thought it was a great idea. And it was. It definitely bonded the team.
"He was extremely open about our chances and about the team that has been selected and the team that had qualified. We were just honored to have him, have his presence in the room."
Sadly, Ballesteros is unable to attend in person this 38th playing of the biennial battle that, along with his five major victories, so defined his illustrious playing career. An ongoing battle with the brain tumor that has seen him undergo a number of operations over the last couple of years has now largely confined him to his home overlooking the Bay of Santander.
In eight Ryder Cup appearances as a player and one as non-playing captain in 1997, the now 53-year old former Open and Masters champion tasted victory as many as four times and defeat only thrice. And his partnership with fellow Spaniard Jose Maria Olazabal remains the most successful in Ryder Cup history. Together, the pair recorded a remarkable 12 points from a possible 15 between 1987 and 1993.
"It was only right to get Seve on the phone," continued Montgomerie. "Seve is our Ryder Cup and always will be. It's always nice to not ever feel that Seve is forgotten by us or by European golf in any way, shape or form.
"It was a real inspiration, especially for the rookies in the team. Even if it was sad to hear him, hear the way he is. I was fortunate to play three Ryder Cups with Seve and he captained me on my fourth appearance. I've never met anyone as passionate about sport and golf as he."
-- *John Huggan