- The Washington Times - Monday, September 20, 2004

BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. — It was an epic week for the Old World.

The 35th Ryder Cup Matches ended in perfectly fitting fashion yesterday, with Scottish stalwart Colin Montgomerie holing the winning putt in the most lopsided European victory in the event’s history.

“It’s been a fantastic week for us all,” said Montgomerie, a virtual playing captain in the 18-9 European rout. “We’re one of the closest teams in international sport; we must be. It’s amazing how well we play for each other, and that’s huge. … It’s amazing how our record here belies our ranking in the world.”

Monty, whose painfully public divorce from his wife of 14 years was finalized just two weeks ago, seemed to immerse himself more than ever this week into the brotherhood dynamic of the European team. And despite being at the tail end of his worst season on the European Tour, the much-maligned Monty justified his selection as a captain’s choice by finishing 3-1 at Oakland Hills to improve his European-best Ryder Cup winning percentage to a stunning .672 (19-8-5).

By the time Montgomerie reached the 18th hole yesterday with a 1-up lead over David Toms in the sixth singles match, Europe already had turned its mammoth overnight lead (11-5) into Cup contention. But with an outright victory over Toms, Monty, ever-burgeoning Ryder Cup legend, would clinch the victory. As he approached the final green, even the American galleries, his most vehement tormentors of the past, voiced their appreciation for his play, chanting “Monty … Monty … Monty.”

When the chanting finally subsided, the 41-year-old Scot calmly stepped up and two-putted over 50 feet of golf’s most diabolical territory, dropping his putter and raising his arms in a rare moment of absolute adulation on U.S. soil.

“It’s been a long four months, five months for me personally,” said Montgomerie as the champagne bottles popped around him and the Europeans cavorted in wild celebration with a surprising number of foreign fans. “I’ve come a long way in those four months. I am proud of myself right now.”

The entire European team glowed with pride after adding a 7-4 singles throttling to the rest of their week’s achievements. All told, the Europeans won four of the five sessions of matches against their favored U.S. counterparts en route to nearly doubling their previous largest margin of victory (16-11 in 1985 at the Belfry). The European power quintet of Monty, Padraig Harrington, Sergio Garcia, Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood finished the event with a stunning combined record of 18-3-3, as Europe authored the most thorough thrashing since the format change in 1979.

“The truth is the Europeans were the best players this week,” said U.S. captain Hal Sutton after the Americans failed for the fourth time in their last five Ryder Cup tries. “We just weren’t on with our putter this week and they were. My guys are great champions and great men. It’s painful for them to have to suffer through this, and it pains me that they have to. … We wanted to win very badly and we didn’t. That’s just the way golf is.”

But Sutton’s philosophical oversimplification can’t explain away this week’s nine-point margin. And a new captain and another American squad obviously have some major issues to address before the Ryder Cup lands in Ireland in 2006.

“Obviously, we’ve got to go in another direction, because they’ve won four of five of these things, and if not for the miracle at Brookline, we would have lost five straight,” said Toms. “We were definitely too tight. But at some point, I guess you just have to play better. Honestly, I don’t know what it is, none of us do or we’d have done it different. But we’ve got to keep searching until we find the right formula. … It’s going to be a long two years.”

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