Monty basks in glow of Ryder victory

By Mitch Phillips

In public, the two captains could not have been more different. Montgomerie talked to anyone who would listen and was relentlessly bullish about the quality of his players and their chances of success at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport.

Pavin, known as one of the more volatile players on the U.S. Tour, reined himself in to offer a calm, relaxed exterior, insisting throughout that it was all about the players and that he was just in Wales to have fun.

Inside though, a fire was raging and in the U.S. team room Pavin was closer to his "War on the Shore" 1991 camouflage-capped persona than the new emotion-lite version.

Twice delayed by rain and shorn by the changed format of being able to rest players after the opening fourballs, the captains were left to be judged on their wild cards, their pairings, their running order and the intangible "gel" factor.

Ian Poulter certainly delivered, as Europe's joint-top scorer with three points alongside Luke Donald, but Edoardo Molinari and Padraig Harrington struggled and will have left the overlooked Paul Casey and Justin Rose wondering from afar.

Tiger Woods was initially off-form, despite scoring points, but the world number one was imperious in the singles to share top billing with Steve Stricker on three points.

Stewart Cink was America's most consistent player, Zach Johnson shook off poor recent form to shine in the singles and Rickie Fowler brought youthful exuberance to a team that had begun to look a little old and creaky.

ANSWERING QUESTIONS

He was questioned for "hiding" Tiger Woods in the middle of his order but Woods won three of his four matches from there and in the singles the "down order" Woods, Mickelson and Johnson all won to pave the way for a possible last-man victory.

That, however, was where Montgomerie played his ace.

The Scot had spoken all week about how previous Ryder Cups had shown the need to "front-load" the singles but Montgomerie kept Graeme McDowell until last as an insurance policy, knowing that the Northern Irish U.S. Open champion had nerves of steel.

It proved an inspired move as McDowell triumphed, partly thanks to opponent Hunter Mahan's failure to deal with the crushing pressure as, with 30,000 sets of eyes boring into his back, he fluffed his chip on the 17th and eventually conceded.

There was a real feel of "doing it for Monty" among the Europeans, mainly because of his remarkable Ryder Cup achievements as a player. But the Americans, often accused of not caring about the competition and being too focused on individualism, also appeared a harmonious and committed unit.

Pavin said that far too much was made of the captain's input and joked that he could have chosen his pairings by plucking the 12 names from a hat.

The fact that the match came down the penultimate hole of the last singles match where a couple of putts either way would have taken the trophy back across the Atlantic perhaps shows he was not so far from the truth.

(Editing by John O'Brien)