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  Sunday, 29 September, 2002, 12:26 GMT 13:26 UK
The new improved Monty
Colin Montgomerie
Montgomerie has been a jovial figure at the Belfry

Will the real Colin Mongtomerie please stand up?

At The Belfry this week the 39-year-old Scot has been engaging in banter with the crowd with an almost ever-present smile fixed on his face.

His demeanour is light years away from the scowling, grumpy Montgomerie that walked away from The Open in July a broken man after carding an 84 at Muirfield.

And for a man whose participation in the Ryder Cup was doubtful as he struggled with a back injury, his form has been a revelation.

Monty won four and halved one of his five matches getting Europe off to a great start in the singles with a five and four win over Scott Hoch.

Back then he reportedly contemplated taking a break from golf because of negative media coverage.

But despite ongoing concerns about whether his bad back will restrict his playing schedule and fluctuations in his form, the laid-back Montgomerie has been a revelation at the 34th Ryder Cup.

During Tuesday practice on the 12th hole a fan told the seven-time European number one that his shot to the green was 'crap'.

Montgomerie handed the club to the spectator asking him if he could do any better.

The fan duly put it a foot from the hole and earned praise from the Surrey-based professional.

Released from the strains that comes with being Europe's number one he has been enjoying his golf again.


Considering what he has gone through in the last few months, he is as good as it gets
Sam Torrance
European team captain
"Being the number one player in Europe does bring its pressure on. Now I don't have that pressure and stress. I'm more relaxed because of that," he said.

Despite his relaxed air, he has led the European team from the front, gaining 3 points over an unbeaten opening two days and earning the praise of captain Sam Torrance.

"He was number one for seven years and he has been again this week," said Torrance.

"Considering what he has gone through in the last few months, he is as good as it gets."

Around the Brabazon course the loudest cheers were reserved for Montgomerie, with fans expressing a genuine affection for him.

While Montgomerie has always been a favourite of British crowds the same cannot be said of American audiences.

Montgomerie enjoys a laugh and a joke
Montgomerie's ever-present smile has lit up the course

Despite twice finishing runner-up in the US Open and second in the USPGA, fans across the Atlantic have teased him about his weight - even heckling him from the gallery with taunts of 'Mrs Doubtfire'.

At the last Ryder Cup at Brookline, he, and his father, were subjected to a torrent of abuse from drunken American fans.

Something he says no-one should ever go through: "I don't want that to happen again for anybody, myself or my team - anybody."

He was ready to quit playing in the United States after growing tired of his treatment, but relented to continue his quest for a Major.

And if the American fans that singled him out had been at the driving range before his vital singles match against Scott Hoch they would have been hard-pressed not to admire the endearing qualities of Montgomerie.

The pre-match tension was cast aside as he invited someone in the crowd to come and hit a few drives off the tee.

The laughter and joking that accompanied the episode only served to boost his standing with European golf fans.

To them, as one fan had printed on her shirt, his is 'one in a million'.


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Europe's Colin Montgomerie
"Not to lose is always a thrill"
European captain Sam Torrance
"Nothing can compare to this victory"
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Europe 15-12 USA

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