Monty is appointed Ryder Cup captain: A curious king-making process

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Colin Montgomerie is appointed Europe’s Ryder Cup captain to wide acclaim from players and pundits alike. By the manner of his appointment reveals a curious king-making process

The right man, it seems. The right stuff. A great competitor. The best player never to win a golf major, and Europe’s top ranking player for nearly a decade. And he also lifts his game for Ryder Cup competitions. So it seems these facts make him the ideal captain for the Ryder Cup. Or, maybe, the best captain that the selection process could come up with.

Colin Montgomerie is as well-known a public figure as almost any in the sporting world. His exposure to the general public has been huge through televised records of countless tournaments and interviews. A turbulent private life has brought further and unwelcome publicity. A few years ago, a breech of rules blew up into a Jakartagate incident for which he was censored heavily. Even this week there is a little matter of an appeal to reverse a driving offence conviction [30th Jan 2009].

Over a period of years he has presented himself as a person of towering rages, at caddies, press, and in reports of alleged violence in his private life). The symptoms are not unknown in leaders in all walks of life. They may well be part of the dark side of the charismatic personality documented by such leadership experts as de Vries, Kellerman, and Kotter. Our correspondent Jeff Schubert has a lot to say on boardroom and political dictators, and of the effect they have on their close associates.

A powerful need to achieve in a leader is not infrequently associated with aggression, ideally channelled into performance. It is tolerated in the successful leader, but it is also then cited subsequently by those who were silently compliant if the leader loses the battle to retain the top job.

In some cases, the selection trade-off is clear but the risk is judged to be worth taking. This may be because of conditions of crisis, or the absence of one ‘safe’ candidate above others.

In this case, details reported of the decision-making have been reported the general public. The process is an interesting one, and worth considering by students of leadership and ‘king-making’. We know that there is considerable amount of consensus-seeking among the leading European Tour players. We know that a group of king-makers including representatives from the players arrives at a decision over a series of meetings. The process is very thorough. We know that Monty was an influential member of the selection group, and that for the most part was not considered as the (traditionally non-playing) captain. He had made it clear that although declining from his peak he intended to fight for his place as a player in the forthcoming Ryder Cup, in Wales.

Another candidate, Olazabal, was a far greater favourite, with Ian Woosnam as second favourite, someone who would have the additional attraction of added support from Welsh audiences at the Celtic Manor course. The Times on line has a good background to the tortuous reasoning around the decision which went against the Spaniard.

Montgomerie himself suggested that in these discussions, that ‘it became clear that my time had come’ [my recollection of his words in several interviews in the days after his appointment ]. Other reports suggested that another player had put Monty’s name forward. That sounded as if the selection had become mired-down, and that the various claims for the (one-off) appointment had managed to neutralise one another, and weaken the prospects of the front-runners.

In this version (not discouraged by Monty subsequently), onee his name was suggested, it made sense, to the selectors. It had a similar effect on Montgomerie. Scales dropped from his eyes (so to speak). A moment of insight.

And so it was that a decision was reached. After a few weeks and in a subsequent meeting, the appointment was confirmed publically.

The appointment is greeted with considerable enthusiasm by the press (and not just the report in The Scotsman). I expected a few high-profile dissenting voices in the press. It was also greeted with enthusiasm by the players. Not so unexpected, as the captain gets to chose two players for the team, (the others appointed by their places on the European Tour order of merit. That fact, and Monty’s expressed view that he would like to pick all sixteen, makes it a bit more difficult to find players willing to offer churlish remarks about the newly appointed captain.

Colin Montgomerie has managed to present himself as a person who can show a loss of self-control under stress. This may be a price worth paying. Players explain why they need someone vastly experienced in winning as a player in the Ryder Cup. After the last match they qualified this in remarkably ageist terms to exclude otherwise outstanding candidates It seems they would be less overawed by a contemporary figures with whom they has played, than say a Nick Faldo who was a great player froman earlier generation. Ah, that’s OK then. Over fifties need not apply.

I’m not convinced by the rationale of this (or is it a rationalization?). That is not to say that the result may be alright. In which case everyone will feel comfortable about preserving not just the selection process, but these assumptions that accompany it. And if Monty’s team lose, there will be plenty of denying that the captaincy emerged within a rather curious king-making process.

Postscript

The king-making was also marred by leaks which produced betting irregularities.

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