WITH THE embers of the inflammatory Ryder Cup at Brookline still glowing intermittently, the visit of Curtis Strange to The Belfry was more a diplomatic mission than an exercise in intelligence gathering at the remodelled Brabazon course.
Thus, before Strange, the United States' captain for the grudge match, sorry, re-match here in September, left, having missed the half-way cut in the Benson and Hedges International Open, he was talking about the dignity of man and golf and how the game would be the winner. He also talked about Colin Montgomerie.
Strange, who won one of his two US Opens at Brookline when he beat Nick Faldo in a play-off, had the good fortune to play with Montgomerie here in the first two rounds. He would have been aware that these are not the best of days for the Anglicised Scot.
Indeed Montgomerie, the dominant force in Europe who won the order of merit seven times in a row until last season, is in trouble. Prior to this tournament he had missed two cuts in a row and is outside the top 10 automatic qualifiers for the Ryder Cup team. This is new territory for him.
Strange, however, had words of comfort for Montgomerie and advice for Sam Torrance, Europe's cup captain: "If you play the game long enough you are going to struggle," Strange said. "You can't play perfectly all the time. Colin hit a few wayward shots but, being the champion he is, he'll be ready for the US Open.
"In terms of leadership and experience he brings much to the Ryder Cup, especially for the younger players. When Colin says something you should listen because he has been around and done it."
Well, we were all ears yesterday and Monty had nothing to say, or almost nothing. "I'm lying 30th in the tournament. There is nothing to say. My all-round game is not great," he said after a 71 in the third round left him at three under.
In the context of the scoring, a 71 was respectable, but not by Montgomerie's standards. He refused to talk to the press and even declined an interview with bosom pal and fellow Scot, the BBC's Dougie Donnelly.
Out on the course, Monty, partnering the one time Midlands wonderboy Peter Baker, drew a decent crowd but there was little to cheer aside from an eagle two at the short 10th, one of the Belfry's signature holes. This is a par three …