Europe Looks to Ballesteros to Inspire Ryder Cup Win Over Woods and U.S.

Colin Montgomerie called on former European Ryder Cup captain Seve Ballesteros, who’s fighting brain cancer, to inspire this year’s team as it attempts to win the golf trophy back from the U.S.

The team talked to the Spaniard by telephone last night, Montgomerie said in a press conference today. Ballesteros, who led Europe to victory in 1997, is too ill to travel to the tournament in Newport, Wales, Montgomerie said.

“It was very motivational, very passionate, and also very sad, to hear him and to hear the way he is,” Montgomerie said. “The passion is still very, very strong within Seve for us as a team.”

The two sides meet in the 38th edition Oct. 1-3 at Celtic Manor with the U.S. aiming to retain the trophy after defeating Europe 16 1/2 to 11 1/2 two years ago. The Americans haven’t won outside the U.S. since 1993.

“They’re going to have the support of the crowd, and that can be a challenge,” U.S. team member Phil Mickelson told journalists. “It has been a long time since the U.S. has won over on foreign soil. This is my eighth Ryder Cup, and the U.S. is yet to win when I’ve been on a team in Europe.”

Ballesteros, who also played in eight Ryder Cups, was diagnosed with a tumor in October 2008 and has undergone surgery and several rounds of chemotherapy. While none of the current team has played with him in the competition, Montgomerie served under him.

Europe the Favorite

Montgomerie’s squad is a 4-7 favorite for the event at Coral Racing Ltd., a U.K. bookmaker. That means a successful $7 bet brings in $4 and the original stake. The U.S. team is 15-8, while a tie is 10-1.

Europe has won three of the last four meetings. Last month, Montgomerie selected Ireland’s Padraig Harrington, Luke Donald of England and Italy’s Edoardo Molinari as his extra picks. The team already had Francesco Molinari, Englishmen Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Ross Fisher, U.S. PGA Championship winner Martin Kaymer of Germany, U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland, Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez and Sweden’s Peter Hanson.

The Americans countered with Mickelson, Hunter Mahan, Bubba Watson, Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker, Dustin Johnson, Jeff Overton and Matt Kuchar, who all qualified after the PGA Championship last month. They’re joined by Tiger Woods, Zach Johnson, Stewart Cink and Rickie Fowler, the picks of U.S. captain Corey Pavin.

McIlroy Comments

European media have published comments about Woods from McIlroy, who said he’d like to play the world’s top-ranked golfer in the Ryder Cup. Woods is winless in 11 PGA Tour events this season, and has struggled since details about his relationships with several women came out after he crashed his sports-utility vehicle into a fire hydrant outside his home in November.

“After what’s happened in the last 18 months, he’s still a fantastic guy and I’m sure he’ll get back to winning the way he used to, but I suppose a little bit of that aura is gone,” the Northern Irishman said this week.

Pavin said McIlroy may regret the comments.

“Other people have said things to Tiger in the past and maybe regretted it,” he told reporters. “I think anything that gets the players fired up is a positive thing for the player getting fired up. I know Tiger is aware of the comment.”

Pavin and Montgomerie wouldn’t reveal their lineups, which may match Woods and McIlroy on the first day of the event.

McDowell and Kaymer tried to break up the mood by teeing off in the morning practice while wearing curly wigs to mimic McIlroy’s unruly hair.

“Rory was quite upset with the comments made in the papers about this Tiger situation,” Montgomerie said. “It was getting out of hand, tabloid-wise. The caddies and the players with him decided they’d get Rory on the first tee and make him feel part of the team again. That was the right thing to do.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Christopher Elser in London at celser@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at celser@bloomberg.net.

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