LOUISVILLE -- There's someone missing at this Ryder Cup and it's not Tiger Woods. It's the greatest player in European Tour history (without a major), one of the all-time stalwarts in Cup history, the team's unofficial playing captain and the event's protagonist since 1991, Colin Montgomerie.
John Hopkins of The Times says a Ryder Cup without Monty is like Robert Burns, the Scottish poet, without the haggis. In this part of the U.S., that would be like Colonel Sanders without the fried chicken. When it came to this biennial tournament, Montgomerie transformed from the Mrs. Doubtfire character that American fans loved to abuse, into a lion who tore into the heart and soul of American golf. He helped bring home five Ryder Cups for Mother Europe, and was hoping for a sixth in Kentucky.
As much as leaving Darren Clarke off the team was a shock, filling Montgomerie's place leaves a larger void in more ways than just the lineup card. This is a young European team, with Padraig Harrington as its only major-championship winner. Nick Faldo is banking on Harrington, Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia to fill the void, but as Harrington said Wednesday, those are big shoes to walk in.
"Colin was fantastic in [the] Ryder Cup," Harrington said. "He loved that position as the playing captain, let's say. You know, there's nobody there to fill his boots at this stage, but there's a number of players in the team who are voicing their opinions and helping out. So yeah, while I think while he's missed, he's replaceable, too."
Harrington considers himself more of a lead-by-example type, whose goal this week, "is approaching the game the right way, and not allowing [myself] to get too high or too low in the course of the matches." That approach and a quiet toughness is how the Irishman won three of the past six majors. Monty was just the opposite, rabbit-eared, moody, but also brilliant. "He was a different man when it [came] to Ryder Cup," Harrington said.
And this is a different European team without him.