Montgomerie pours his energy into Ryder Cup
The Ryder Cup would not feel right without Colin Montgomerie and the Briton is determined to be back leading the European assault at Valhalla Golf Club in Kentucky in September.
Montgomerie, whose astonishing playing record and overall influence have had a huge bearing on Europe's success in the competition since his debut in 1991, is languishing in the Cup rankings and knows he needs to do something special if he is to avoid relying on a wild-card pick from captain Nick Faldo.
"I've got to get better," Montgomerie told Reuters on Monday. "I had a top-10 finish in Qatar but the others weren't so good," he added of the Asian leg of the European Tour.
"I want to get into Nick's team in September and I have to win at least twice on tour this year to make that team and that's my goal.
"I like setting myself challenges, realistic ones, and I look forward to trying to make that one."
Montgomerie, who has slipped to 60th in the world rankings, is 48th in the World Points List and 37th in the European Points List, with five Ryder Cup qualifiers coming from each list.
The Scot says he has patched up his differences with Faldo after their Seve Trophy fallout last year and Faldo will be aware of what the eight-times European Order of Merit winner can bring to the table.
Montgomerie is undefeated in his eight singles matches where his record of seven points from six wins and two halves equals the Ryder Cup record.
Overall in his eight Ryder Cups he has played 36 matches, winning 20 and halving seven, and he poignantly holed the winning putt at Oakland Hills in 2004.
Whatever form he is in before each edition of the biennial competition, he seems to lift his game when he becomes part of the team.
"You want to be a part of it and I want to make it nine in a row," the 44-year-old said ahead of Europe's attempt to secure a fourth successive Cup victory.
"I enjoy that camaraderie, that team room environment. I enjoy the way that they can rely on me and I can rely on them -- I could write a book on every Ryder Cup I've played in."
Faldo, with 25, and Bernhard Langer (24) are the only Europeans to have scored more Ryder Cup points than the talismanic Montgomerie (23-1/2).
Before things are settled for September, however, Montgomerie, still chasing that elusive major, has the more pressing matter of trying to avoid missing out on the Masters for only the second time since his debut in 1992.
In 2005, he was a notable absentee when his world ranking had slipped well below the top 50 and he failed to gain a special invitation from the committee at Augusta National.
"That's another goal at the moment," Montgomerie said. "I've got to go out to the (WGC) Match Play Championship in Arizona and win a few rounds at least to try to get back into the top 50.
"The Masters is the one (major) tournament I'm not in now and it's not one you want to miss."
That WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship is set to feature 62 of the world's top 64 players but Montgomerie was in less exalted company on Monday at the launch of this year's HSBC Wee Wonders golf championship.
The nationwide competition for children between five and 12 culminates in a St Andrews final and Montgomerie was clearly in his element when giving tips to a dozen wide-eyed hopefuls at a pay-and-play course in west London.
"I really enjoy it," he said. "Playing against my peers for the last 20 years can get a bit laborious. It's a job but this is something very different.
"I enjoy working with the future and with real talent. There is an eight-year-old lad there who can hit the ball incredibly well and a 10-year-old girl with a handicap of 10.
"I was 14 before I broke 100 but they are doing it at eight, which is amazing. There was nothing I could tell them."
With proud parents looking on, Montgomerie took time to watch each child, offering tips and encouragement.
But just in case anyone was thinking the old bulldog had gone soft he still had time to bark a trademark rebuke to one over-eager photographer who wandered too close.
"They never learn," he said. "They still always think the ball is going to go straight."