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None of us has a right to know
Nothing satisfies the tabloid press more than personal tragedy. The feeding frenzy of the gutter press is seen at its most avaricious when a figure in the public eye is exposed as having feet-of-clay or, better yet, normal emotions. Nothing appeals to the headline writers more than a fall-from-grace story for the public appetite for the raw exposure of its celebrities is endless. It is a desperately depressing aspect of human nature but it is, nevertheless, reality, and a reality that Colin Montgomerie will have to live with.

It is perhaps understandable that politicians should be subjected to close public scrutiny in their private lives. One can also comprehend why certain personality failings of pop stars should be brought to the notice of the public. What is hard to stomach and, as far as I am concerned, quite unacceptable, is when personal and private tragedies besetting the lives of sporting figures is given prominent news coverage. Do we really need to know of David Beckham's personal and, certainly not uncommon, private failings? More important and surely more painful, do we and should we know the details of the unhappiness within the family of Colin Montgomerie?

The tabloid press has had a field day over the prolonged collapse of Monty's marriage. For months, like old ladies with nothing to do other than pedal gossip, tabloid reporters have snapped away at his family's obvious unhappiness. The sad fact that Monty failed to make the cut at the Masters was of secondary importance to the reaction of his wife and the press corps after the event.

The statement to the press that Monty's marriage had irretrievably broken down should have ended matters but it served only to sharpen the appetite. A film star [Hugh Grant], clearly a peripheral figure in the matter, added spice and character assassination followed. Monty's wife of 14 years was subjected to close examination while his personality was analysed and his failings put through the washing machine before being hung out like dirty linen. He was a man driven, we learned, preoccupied with his need to win a Major championship; he was a man at odds with his family because of his personal craving for recognition and success as a Major championship winner. What tosh!

Monty is a professional golfer and, like a salesman competing in a demanding market, he has had to travel and challenge non-stop. There have been expectations of him and, as a professional player, he has had ambition and expectation of himself. Of course he has had a stressful job; of course special demands have been made of his marriage, but, like 30% of all marriages today, he and his wife simply came to the conclusion that, after 14 years together, their personal expectations had diverged and that they were no longer compatible. They deserve our sympathy and understanding, not our avaricious appetite for personal and private detail.

Monty is a perfect target for the tabloid hounds. Like Faldo and Lyle before him, both of whom were subjected to the same scrutiny over the collapse of their marriages, Monty is bland. His golf is hardly cavalier and his private life is not studded with starlets jumping in and out of his bed. The PR birds have pecked away at what little there was available with the result that the press has had to resort to his bouts of scowls and petulance to make something newsworthy. As a natural wearer of his heart on his sleeve on the golf course, anything that pertains to Monty's emotions is manna from heaven to the coyotes of the press tent.

On the golf course Monty is a victim of his own drive to succeed. He himself has talked up his desire for a Major title and therefore drawn attention to his own failings. It is clearly not enough for him to have taken over £25 million out of the game, accrued more European Tour wins or been the order of merit winner more often than anyone else. Without a green jacket or his name cut into the silverware of The Open or US Open, he clearly feels that he will be a mere footnote in the history of the game.

At 40, he must frequently have read that his best chances have gone and that it is all over. This is sad and it is also very wrong for he still has all of the ingredients of the great golfer.

In the depths of despair, it would be understandable if Monty saw himself at the end when, in fact, he should be regarding his situation as a new beginning. One hopes that those about him are encouraging him to be positive in his inevitable self-assessment at this time, for he can come through this a wiser and better person from the experience. Fred Couples did and Monty can do the same.

The European Tour certainly needs Montgomerie and at no time more than the present. He may not be required to collect the necessary points for automatic entry into the Ryder Cup team for Bernhard Langer has had first hand experience of his determination and tenacity - and Bernhard has two wild cards at his disposal.

Montgomerie will need the Tour for his personal and professional rehabilitation but the Tour also needs Montgomerie.

©    5 - MAY 2004

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