Harrington and Westwood must step up to plate: Montgomerie

By Bernie McGuire

CHAMBOURCY, France (Reuters) - It is time for Padraig Harrington and Lee Westwood to take on the mantle of Europe's on-course Ryder Cup leaders, according to captain Colin Montgomerie.

"He (Harrington) has been given a wildcard pick and one of the reasons was to make sure he stepped up to the plate and to give him that vote of confidence to say, 'this is your time -- you come forward and lead this team on the course'," Montgomerie told Reuters.

"I am looking to him and Westwood to do this. Westwood has played in six Ryder Cups and Padraig's played five so it's time they both stepped up," the skipper added on the eve of this week's Vivendi Cup on the outskirts of Paris.

Montgomerie was especially pleased to hear triple major winner Harrington say last week that he was ready to accept more responsibility when Europe take on the U.S. holders at Celtic Manor in Wales next week.

"I will take care of everyone else around the course but it's time for those two (Harrington and Westwood) especially to come forward," said the captain.

"I haven't spoken to Padraig at all about this so it was very nice to hear him say that last week, and that he is prepared to open doors and speak with the rookies and go to them himself without having to wait for me to ask him."

Montgomerie, though, is unhappy Harrington and Swede Peter Hanson are the only members of his 12-man team competing in this week's pro-am event.

TOUGH WEEK

"I would have liked more to be playing here," he told a news conference on Wednesday.

"Unfortunately Edoardo (Molinari) had to pull out -- he's just resting really because it's going to be a tough week next week." Montgomerie again defended his decision to overlook Paul Casey as a wildcard pick even though the Briton could capture the $10 million bonus available to the winner of the U.S. PGA Tour's FedExCup series on Sunday.

"I anticipated there would be criticism over (omitting) not just Paul Casey but Justin Rose as he also had obvious credentials to be a part of the team," said Europe's skipper.

"Thank goodness Robert Karlsson, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson weren't in the group of five (candidates for wildcard picks along with eventual choices Harrington, Molinari and Luke Donald) because that would have been eight and it would have been worse.

"It was an impossible decision and Paul's been very professional in what he's been saying over in America.

"It was my decision to try and get 14 1/2 points on the board (to win the trophy next week) and that's the team I feel is capable of doing that," added Montgomerie.

"I am convinced if they play to their potential we will win. They have got to play to their potential because the standard of the opposition is ... very strong."

(Editing by Tony Jimenez)