Thursday 23 March 2017

Harrington lacking genuine Ryder desire

karl macginty

WHAT'S the difference between Padraig Harrington and Ian Poulter? Easy, Harrington has three Majors, Poulter has none.

The Dubliner certainly would never wear Union Jack trousers; nor much else, one suspects, from Poulter's extravagant wardrobe.

Oh yeah, the Englishman has won a couple of times in the past two seasons and his victory in February's Accenture Match Play World Championship in Tucson helped copper-fasten his place at the upcoming Ryder Cup in Celtic Manor.

Harrington (pictured) is currently just €1,247.23 outside the nine automatic spots on the team and, with two weeks still to go, will make no further effort to qualify.

Hold on, that puts Harrington in the same leaky boat as Poulter two years ago, when the latter skipped the final qualifying event at Gleneagles and relied on Nick Faldo to give him a captain's pick for Valhalla. This column pilloried Poulter for failing to make every effort to play his way into the team and captain Faldo for favouring him with a wild card ahead of Darren Clarke.

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Okay, the circumstances this time are slightly different, especially given Harrington's world-class status as a Major champion.

With the Irishman, Justin Rose and Paul Casey all deciding to give Gleneagles a miss, skipper Colin Montgomerie has had to face harsh reality and scuttle back from his insistence earlier this year that wild card contenders would be best advised to play in next week's Johnnie Walker Championship.

Rose and Harrington missed the cut at last weekend's US PGA, while Casey squeezed into the all-important top nine in a tie for 12th at Whistling Straits.

He could just as easily be bumped out again, however, as events unfold at the Czech Open this week and then at Gleneagles.

It's still not clear if Luke Donald, bounced out of the top four in the world points list by Martin Kaymer's brilliant play-off win on Sunday, will try to fight his way back at Gleneagles, doubtless winning a few brownie points in the process.

Harrington certainly has made the reasons why he'll make no further effort to win his place at Celtic Manor sound far more convincing than the half-hearted excuses offered by Poulter in 2008.

Though he hasn't won on Tour since his US PGA victory at Oakland Hills in 2008, Harrington expressed the hope that Montgomerie will look beyond his missed cuts at three of the four Majors this year.

"Having 16 top-10s in the last year is going to be a lot of comfort," said Harrington before leaving Whistling Straits for a week's holiday with his family in North Carolina, followed by next week's Barclays, first of the four FedEx Cup play-offs in the US.

The European qualifying series will close in Scotland next Sunday week, hours before the Barclays concludes in New Jersey, meaning work-ranking points picked up there will be of no use to Harrington, Rose or Casey in the race to Celtic Manor.

"I'm sure he (Monty) needs some experience in that team and some older guys. I have done everything I can now and there is nothing more I can do. My Majors have been poor this year but everything else has been good," he said.

Asked if there was any prospect of a last-ditch schedule change, Harrington went on: "I don't think so; I've worked hard, tried hard, and there's no point in overdoing things.

"If I get picked I want to be ready to play and if it doesn't happen I'll be disappointed, but there is not more I could have done. At the end of the day, I have to be competitive and stick to my schedule. I want to play well in the Ryder Cup and that means if I get picked, I want to be ready to play. That'd be my attitude. There's no point playing the next two weeks (flying over and back across the Atlantic) and burning myself out.

"There certainly is a case for saying you should come back but there is also a case for saying you should prepare properly and, if picked, be ready to play," added Harrington.

He insisted the Ryder Cup comes fifth, only behind the Majors and ahead of the Irish Open, in his priority list, explaining earlier in the week at Whistling Straits that he'd be "devastated" not to play in his sixth Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor.

Yet Harrington's actions speak louder than his words and his decision not to fight to the last for his Ryder Cup berth is as unpalatable as Poulter's two years ago.

Edoardo Molinari, the talented Italian who teamed up with his brother Francesco to win the World Cup for Italy last November, is one who'll bust a gut at Gleneagles next week to join his sibling on the European team.

Was he surprised to hear of Ryder Cup contenders not prepared to play in Scotland?

"A little bit," said Molinari, "as Colin at the beginning of the year said he'd like all the players to play at Celtic Manor and Gleneagles. I will play both as I think it's good to show you're making an effort to make the team."

Molinari wasn't naive enough to think this would improve his prospects of earning a captain's pick, should he need one. "I don't think it'll make a difference but I'm making every effort to make the team and that'll do."

It'll be interesting to see if it does for Monty.

Irish Independent

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