THOUSAND OAKS, California, Dec 12 (Reuters) - Britain’s Colin Montgomerie says he and European Ryder Cup captain Nick Faldo have settled their differences after a verbal spat at the Seve Trophy three months ago.
“I’ve spoken to Nick and it’s fine,” Montgomerie told a news conference on Wednesday during preparation for this week’s Target World Challenge. “It doesn’t concern me.”
After being criticised by Faldo for an apparent lack of team spirit at the Seve Trophy in September, Montgomerie countered by saying such comments should have been directed to him personally instead of through the media.
With that hatchet now seemingly buried, Montgomerie believes it is paramount for Europe to maintain the team unity that has helped them win the Ryder Cup five times in the last six years.
“Let’s hope the ambiance of our European team remains as it has done throughout that time, meaning that we go in there relaxed, we go in there as a team,” he said of next year’s contest in Louisville, Kentucky.
A veteran of nine Ryder Cups as a player, Montgomerie expects the 2008 matches to be as tough as any he has experienced.
“No one likes to lose four times in a row, especially at home; three times is bad enough,” he said of the U.S. bid to end a run of three European consecutive victories.
“(U.S. captain) Paul Azinger being as tough a competitor as he is will have this right down and I think this will be as tough a Ryder Cup as we’ve ever experienced, in a competitive way.”
Montgomerie, so often Europe’s talismanic figure in the biennial competition, accepts his place on Faldo’s team is by no means guaranteed.
“It’s just one of these things if it doesn’t happen,” the 44-year-old Scot said. “I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it. I’d just make sure I qualified in 2010. Simple as that really.
“I’m nowhere near it now because I made a particularly poor start to the qualifying situation but I know if I play well in 2008 I’ll qualify.
“I’ve had one pick out of my eight (Ryder Cup appearances). I’ve qualified seven times. If I get to 12 or 13 on the list, I might get picked again. Nick knows the situation and so do I.”
Montgomerie expects the Americans to field a much stronger team next year after doubling their captain’s picks from two to four.
“There were three people on their team who won their singles in 2006, Tiger (Woods) and the two picks,” he said.
Woods and wildcard selections Stewart Cink and Scott Verplank were the only U.S. players to win their singles matches at the K Club in Ireland last year when the Europeans won by a record-equalling 18-1/2 points to 9-1/2.
“The two picks are the strength of the team in my opinion, so to have four would be even stronger,” Montgomerie added.
The 2008 Ryder Cup will take place at Valhalla Golf Club from Sept. 19-21. (Editing by Alison Wildey)