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March 24, 2010

Colin Montgomerie


MARK STEVENS: Like to welcome Colin Montgomerie, Captain of the European Ryder Cup Team for 2010, and Colin is making his 13th appearance here at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. If you would start off a little bit, talk about coming back to Bay Hill again this year, you had a year off, and then we'll take some questions.
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Sure. Well, the way my game has been going, I've had a few years off, really. But yes, it's nice to come back here. The weather here is fantastic compared to -- we left two foot of snow in the ground in Scotland, so it's nice to be able to come here and play on a fantastic golf course. The golf course has changed dramatically since I played in 2008, and very much better, I think you'll find that from all of the players. I think the golf course has improved dramatically, and all credit to everyone associated with doing that and having the vision to do that.
At the same time, it's nice to come here and compete against a very strong field, and I look forward to it.

Q. Would you mind just discussing the state of your game currently and also how you're going to balance being competitive with your captaining duties this year.
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Yeah, I haven't really performed this last year. I went out to Houston to see my coach when I was down at university there, Paul Marchand, so I spent a few days in Houston on the way over here and worked out a number of issues within the swing, and the way that I was thinking around the golf course, and it's changed. And I've practiced well here, so I look forward to not just compete here but to contend here, and then move forward from then on.
I have a goal that I would love to win before The Ryder Cup starts. I'd like to stand in front of my team at the Opening Ceremony as a tournament winner myself this year. So that's a goal, and I'm working towards that.
It has been difficult time-wise to fit everything in to try and concentrate on playing at a certain level at the same time as all of the administration and all of the time consumed in organizing and in being the host Ryder Cup Captain. There's an awful lot more to do being the host than there is being what we would say, the away captain, if you like, on my part.
So it has been very busy, but it's been exciting at the same time.

Q. With Tiger being out a lot of the last three years, injury and other reasons --
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: What were they? (Laughter).

Q. Too numerous to count. The international players have stepped in --
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: I didn't say that. (Laughter).

Q. Seven of the last 12 majors have been won by international players including some guys that are going to be on your team.

Q. Henrik and Sergio won the last two PLAYERS (Championship) and you had the all-England final at the Match Okay. Is there an easier explanation other than that's where the talent base is right now in worldwide golf?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Well, I wouldn't necessarily say talent base. What's happened is that you in America here set the standards and did right through the 80s, I suppose, and then we caught up now. I'm not saying "we" in Europe; I'm saying "we" in the world. I'm saying the South Africans, the Australians, the Asians and the Europeans caught up; I'm not saying overtaken, but certainly caught up. And The Ryder Cup situation with our victories, to win five out of six the way we did there, was proof of that.
We now have an Asian winner of a major, and as you say, the CA Championship there recently at Doral, I don't believe there was -- or was there one American in the Top-10, you know, and there was only one American in the top eight of the Accenture Match Play. So there is a changing of the guard, there's no question.
Although in Europe, speaking with my European hat on here, although we don't have the top three in the world, we have the rest. It's the first time that a captain of The Ryder Cup Team can say that; that I think if you take our 12 top players within the world, they hardly -- the worst world-ranked player is just about 20, which is incredible. We usually have teams that our 12th-ranked would be 60, 70 in the world and now we are down to 20.
I think it's a fact that they are all competing against each other. I think when competition improves standards, in all business, and I think they compete against each other -- I'm talking about my own set of players. And Paul Casey wants to beat Ian Poulter, and Ian Poulter wants to beat Harrington and Harrington wants to beat Garcia and Kaymer and everyone around there and Westwood. And so they are all competing against each other to see if they can get this major success.
Harrington has done extremely well to win three out of the last seven, I believe, and we just have to think about getting some more major success here. They truly believe they can, and I wish them well come Augusta in a couple of weeks' time.

Q. Can you elaborate on the Swedish players, how they are on your radar, and how important you think the tournament at Bro Hof in Stockholm is going to be?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Yeah, we have a new course there, at The Nordea Scandinavian Masters, and we look forward to that. And of course you bid for The Ryder Cup on that particular course, and we wish you well in your 2018 bid to host The Ryder Cup on that particular course.
I haven't played there myself. So I can't really speak on it. But I hear from what people have said, it's a fantastic venue, and purpose-built for The Matches.
You have two stand-out Swedish players in Robert Karlsson and Henrik Stenson, two world players. And I always felt that we had a fantastic team in 2006 in Ireland because our two rookies, the only two rookies on the team were Henrik Stenson and Robert Karlsson. Now, that's not bad to bring in two rookies of that standard and quality.
I expect them to be on the team, and they would expect to be on the team. Who is going to join them from Sweden or also from Scandinavias, from your Denmark contingent, as well, is up for grabs. But they are working as hard as anyone to make that team.

Q. Could you speak to the depth right now of English golf specifically. You've had guys like Casey, Poulter, fisher, Westwood all knocking on the door in majors.

Q. You might have to go back to old Tom and young Tom days for a deeper contingent.
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Yes, very much so. I think it was fantastic for English golf to -- I think Tony Jacklin would have something to say about that, but never mind.
To have a final of two Englishman in America was a fantastic achievement. And the way they played, the way they performed throughout the whole week; and for Paul Casey to be runner-up two years in a row is a great achievement, to get in the final twice in a row there; Ian Poulter holes out better from eight, ten feet. And that's why in match play, he's a very dangerous competitor to play against, and that's why that Nick Faldo's picks last time were both of those players and made exactly the right choice and proven to be that way.
Ian Poulter, although been on the losing team, very rarely on a losing team do you get the most points within The Ryder Cup and Ian Poulter achieved that, so all credit to him. Westwood has come very close, Ross Fisher came very close, of course, won the so-called European Match Play, if you like in Malaga, Spain, there. And so we have a great set, and that's not including Luke Donald and not including other great world players from England.
So we have a great set in England there, and I look forward to captaining them.

Q. Totally unrelated question.

Q. Over the years, you've had to deal with your share of noise from outside the gallery ropes. It's going to be real interesting to see how Tiger reacts to being possibly -- well, in the eyes of some people, as the guy in the black hat and the villain. I'm wondering what it's like from your perspective to play as a marked man in some ways and how you were able to -- obviously sometimes you handled it well and sometimes you didn't. I imagine you use it as fuel for the fire at points along the way?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: I did at times in the 90s when I was No. 1 in Europe and No. 2 in the world to Greg Norman, I was the biggest threat, I suppose. I came over here and I was the biggest threat. You play accordingly. You act accordingly. I sometimes, as you say, got it wrong, and sometimes it was -- but it did fire me up, there's no question. Especially when you come and play as part of a European Team.
Tiger, to come back, I've heard when he said that he's nervous to come back, and that's the first time I've ever heard Tiger say those words, we all have, and it's going to be interesting. It's going to be very shrewd what he's done to come back in the most controlled atmosphere possible.
The Masters, I've played it a number of times myself, I understand that it is a very controlled environment. The Patrons are very knowledgeable and will respect him as the golfer that he is, and I think that there will be no issue at all, and I think he'll get over his nerves Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.
I hear he's been up for a practice round already. He'll get over those nerves, and he will be as determined as anyone has ever been on a golf course to prove that he's still the No. 1 player in the world, and in my opinion, the best player ever to play the game.

Q. Along those lines, I would ask you this on your experience of a couple of big Saturdays with Tiger, at Augusta and on home soil, if you will. What do you think the two players drawn with him on Thursday and Friday can expect? And if you were on the competitions committee for Augusta National, how would you go about selecting them?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: With great care.

Q. Ask for volunteers --
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: You'd almost have -- I think you're dead right, you'd almost had to have ask for volunteers; with great care. There's a number of players that will be looking at that draw sheet; I believe it comes out on Tuesday afternoon and will be delighted if they are not playing with Tiger on this occasion, Thursday, Friday.
But in saying that, it is a very controlled environment, Augusta National, very controlled. There is no cameras, as such, allowed within the ropes. There's no -- you see nothing bar your own participating opponent and caddie, and your own caddie. So it is the most controlled environment possible.
I think it will be fine. Coming to a so-called normal PGA TOUR event, it might be different. But being so controlled, and I think he's been very wise in selecting the Masters for his return, and believe me, he wouldn't be playing in the Masters -- I know him well enough, he wouldn't be playing in the Masters if he didn't think he could win.
And he's going there and he's preparing right now, wherever he is preparing, for these next two weeks, as hard as he's ever done, because as I said, he's determined to do well, very well.

Q. If you were at the Masters this year, would you volunteer?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Good question. (Laughing). Yes, I would volunteer, yes. I think it would be very, very exciting, very exciting to see him come back. I think you here especially on the PGA TOUR, I wouldn't say suffered without him, but at the same time, it's a bonus that he's coming back sooner than we might have thought from his statement, we thought, hang on, he might not play this year, and within a month, he's playing. So that's fantastic news for everybody concerned, not just you here in America but for us in Europe and worldwide, and the game of golf will benefit from his return.

Q. Could I get your thoughts on how you think he might do after not playing for five months and his first tournament back is at Augusta?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: He will -- as I said earlier, I think he won't be entering Augusta if he didn't think he could win. Even in my much lesser state took four months off at the back end of 1995 and came back and won my first tournament, the Dubai Desert Classic there in 1996, and he knows how to win. He will be in that -- I'm sure he will be contending of some kind, and he knows how to win.
And it will be interesting to see how the other players around him react when his name is on that leaderboard again. It will be very different to see his name up there than some others. He has that aura about him, and it will be interesting to see if other players react differently now, or the same as they did. It will be very exciting times.

Q. Tiger's off the course troubles have dominated American news and sports coverage for months now and all of the players have been asked about it over and over; is it playing out that way, as well, in Europe with the players, and how do you feel about that?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Obviously not so much because Tiger, you know, for the main, 80 percent of the time plays his golf here in the States. When he does come over, it's very exciting when he comes over and plays as he did in the World Match Play and The Ryder Cups, and also The Open Championship.
So I think we'll be welcoming him with open arms when he comes over for The Open Championship at St. Andrews. He's won in 2000 and 2005 and would start as a heavy favorite to do that again. We know that the crowd there will respect him as they do at the Masters as the golfer that he is.

Q. It was referenced earlier about the fact that Tiger might face some negativity, probably not at the Masters but maybe at a regular event. In your own experience, is it more that you're worried about that happening when you're about to swing; does it affect your concentration between shots? Obviously it's usually just a couple of people that we are talking about?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Yes, it's always the minority that spoil it for the majority in any sense. But Tiger is different. I only got the spotlight when I came over here to America. He has a spotlight and has had on him for the last ten years. It's amazing how sometimes you see him swing a club and it comes down and just stops and it's incredible how he has that control to stop the club at that speed coming through.
So he's been used to this most of his professional career. So I don't envisage my problems arising with that at all. He's the most focused sportsman I've ever known, and I think that he will adapt accordingly.

Q. Just wondering if you can elaborate on taking four months off and coming back to win in 1996, and are there actually advantages to doing that?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Yeah, there is. There are, there are advantages, I think many; that you come in with that much agenda, really. You haven't really paid much attention to people's form to where they are, what they are doing. You just play your own game, and suddenly, you know, Bingo, you're 1-up playing the last. I think you might find that there could be the odd disadvantage to him coming back, but I think that at this stage, there are more advantages than disadvantages. He's physically fit. He knows how to swing a golf club. He knows how to win. He just hasn't -- he just hasn't done it for a while.
But at the same time, as I said, he's the best player that's ever played and he will adapt accordingly.

Q. I'm sorry you're getting all of the Tiger questions --
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Not at all. Not at all. I was semi-expecting it.

Q. What will it be like at The Ryder Cup where different rules of comportment take place; I expect it to be a little more noisy than usual given his circumstances.
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Well, playing in The Open Championship, he will already have been to the British shores before that and he will come back again in September, so it's not his first time over there. And yes, as part of a team, it should be a little noisier than normal, but at the same time, we have a very knowledgeable crowd there at The Ryder Cup, and most of those Patrons, if you like, of The Ryder Cup, are members of golf clubs and respect the game of golf for what it is.
I think that there will be no issue at all; they are just very excited to have Tiger play as a professional in Wales for the first time, and they are very excited to see him and very excited to be part of the whole event. So there will be no issue with him playing The Ryder Cup. I just hope that he does play and performs well, because any tournament that is won with Tiger in it against Tiger is worth an extra point.
We do hope that he plays and plays well.
MARK STEVENS: Thank you, Colin, play well and best of luck this week.

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