Euro have strength in depth, says Monty

COLOGNE: Colin Montgomerie believes the strength in depth of the 2004 European Ryder Cup team will give captain Bernhard Langer more flexibility than any of his predecessors. 

“I'm very positive,” Montgomerie said on Wednesday on the eve of the German Masters, the final European Tour event before next week's showdown between the United States and Europe at Oakland Hills in Michigan. 

“I think our team this year goes all the way down. 

“I think, for the first time, that Bernhard can chop and change his team more than other captains have been able to in previous years. 

“Making those changes, being able to chop and change, can only help us come Sunday,” added the 41-year-old Briton, who is one of Langer's two wildcard picks for the September 17-19 match at Oakland Hills. 

Langer wants to put out every player before Sunday's Ryder Cup singles matches and he will have no qualms about blooding Britain Luke Donald, one of five rookies on the team and twice a winner on the European Tour in the last five weeks. 

“It was a fantastic response from Luke to win straight after being picked,” said the German of Donald's victory at the European Masters in Switzerland on Sunday. 

“The result could not have been better and it just shows how good a player Luke is, to have only played eight events in Europe this year and won twice.” 

With Donald winning and Spaniards Miguel Angel Jimenez and Sergio Garcia finishing second and tied for third, Langer could hardly be happier about their pre-Ryder Cup form. 

“I don't care what message it may send out to the Americans because I am just glad the guys are playing well,” he added. 

“I just hope they can keep up the form this week in Cologne and again next week in Detroit.” 

Eight of Langer's European team are in action at Gut Larchenhof this week. 

It should have been 10, but Lee Westwood withdrew after his wife Laurae gave birth to their second child on Sunday, a daughter named Poppy Grace. 

Fellow Briton David Howell also pulled out with a heavy cold, leaving Darren Clarke, Padraig Harrington, Montgomerie, Jimenez, Paul McGinley, Paul Casey, Thomas Levet and Ian Poulter as the European Ryder Cup players on duty this week. 

Clarke had to pull out of Wednesday's pro-am with a sore right wrist, but the Northern Irishman insisted it was only a precautionary measure. 

“It is nothing much, just a little tweak, so the physios have strapped it up,” he said. 

“I caught one a little heavy on the range, everything is fine and I'll be fine for the tournament.” 

Sweden's Fredrik Jacobson, Europe's first reserve for the Ryder cup, plus Langer's vice-captain Anders Forsbrand and assistant Thomas Bjorn are also in this week's field. 

Montgomerie said Dane Bjorn was a welcome addition to the European team room. 

“He is passionate, very passionate about Europe. I would have him as a partner because he's a guy who hates to lose and I think we need more of that,” said the seven-times European number one. 

Also playing in Cologne this week are British Open champion Todd Hamilton, Germany's Alex Cejka, twice US Masters winner Jose Maria Olazabal and defending champion K. J. Choi of South Korea. – Reuters 

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