Monty ready to share load for Europeans

Updated: September 19, 2006, 2:51 PM ET
SportsTicker

DUBLIN, Ireland - As far as Colin Montgomerie is concerned, the Americans can target him as much as they want at the Ryder Cup this week.

With an astonishing record of only two defeats in his last 18 games, Montgomerie is the man who has contributed most to the run of success defending champion Europe has enjoyed in recent years.

But while United States captain Tom Lehman has been getting his side to bond by standing up and singing to each other, the 43-year-old Scot prefers just to sing the praises of his teammates.

As he counts down to his eighth cap, Montgomerie even said that he is ready just sit and watch them if necessary.

"I'd love to be playing Friday, but I'm prepared not to," the 43-year-old Montgomerie said. "These guys are younger, fitter, stronger, better."

Told that Stewart Cink had said earlier in the day that he considered Montgomerie the player the Americans most want to beat, the eight-time European Tour Order of Merit winner turned the focus to his team.

"I take that as the highest compliment," Montgomerie said. "But, I must admit, on this occasion I'm one of a very good 12. I hate to say this before the event starts, but this is - I believe - the strongest team we've ever put together.

"I don't feel targeted the way I did in the mid-to-late 1990s. That's a sign of our strength - we have no weaknesses at all."

Considering how well the Europeans have done in recent years in the role of underdogs, there is a danger that becoming the favorites could have an adverse effect.

But Montgomerie is happy to embrace the tag, believing his side will live up to the billing.

"We look forward to going out and proving it," he said.

After he sank the winning putt in Oakland Hills, Michigan two years ago, Montgomerie said he might want to succeed Bernhard Langer as captain.

But with another Order of Merit title now under his belt, and the chance of a ninth this season, the Scot could not be happier the way things have turned out.

"I'm really glad I'm still playing," he said. "You are a long time retired and the one thing that competitors miss is competition. I would miss it too.

"And I enjoy this week more than any other. This is a tournament where my personal record goes flying out of the window. I'm here for the team and I'm sure the other 11 members of the team will say exactly the same thing. That's why we have done well and that's why I think we'll do well again."

What player captain Ian Woosnam will leave out of the opening four-ball event on Friday was already a subject of conjecture and an encouraging round by Paul McGinley will make the decision even tougher.

A native of Dublin, McGinley's form has been a real concern of late but, with two more days of practice to go, he can push himself back into consideration, especially as he and Padraig Harrington are performing on home turf.

However, the pair would not mind admitting the loudest and longest cheers on Tuesday were for Darren Clarke, who was given a hug by Tiger Woods in their first meeting since the Northern Irishman's wife Heather died of cancer last month.

Unsurprisingly, Clarke partnered with best friend Lee Westwood, while Spaniards Sergio Garcia and Jose Maria Olazabal and Swedish debutants Henrik Stenson and Robert Karlsson were together. The other duo for a friendly four-ball round was Englishmen Luke Donald and Paul Casey.

The rain - both past and predicted - has led Woosnam to voice his concern that the first Ryder Cup in Ireland could be halted by bad weather.

"I think what we've got to worry about is will we be able to play the golf course," Woosnam said on hearing that the tail end of Hurricane Gordon in the Atlantic could be heading towards the K Club."

Winds gusting to 40 mph and rain of up to an inch are predicted for Wednesday and into Thursday. Although the match does not start until Friday, more showers are forecast for the weekend.

Monday's rain left bunkers flooded on the course just west of Dublin and new rakes have been bought because of the furrows that were left when the greenkeeping staff did their repair work.

"They had to rough them up to dry them out a little bit," Woosnam said. "Two of our players were in bunkers today and basically just couldn't get the ball out (because) there's so many rake marks.

"When they do get raked now they will be raked more towards the greens. At least if it's lying in the groove mark you'll be going with it rather than across it. That's how I'd like to see it any way."

Tournament director David Garland said the situation was being constantly monitored and discussions were to be held with Woosnam and American captain Tom Lehman over whether preferred lies - lift, clean and place as it is also known - will be in allowed because of the amount of mud the ball is picking up.

"We're out monitoring things and will keep doing that daily," said Garland, the European Tour's director of operations. "We never want to have placing of the ball, but sometimes you just have to.

"The course is soft obviously, but the greenkeeping team have been doing a very good job."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index