Harrington form has Monty in high spirits
EUROPEAN skipper Colin Montgomerie last night expressed his delight at Padraig Harrington's Parisian rhapsody, describing the Dubliner's return to hot scoring form at the Vivendi Cup as a major fillip entering Ryder Cup week.
Saying it had been 18 months since he'd seen Harrington as happy as he was on arrival at Celtic Manor on Sunday evening, Montgomerie insisted the Irishman's performance -- as he matched his low round of the season with that final-round 64 in Paris -- was a boost to the entire team.
"It was encouraging, very much so," said the Scot, who sees three-time Major champion Harrington as one of his 'captains in the field' at Celtic Manor.
"I want him and Lee Westwood to be my team leaders, if you like. They are my major players and I look forward to having Padraig in that role," Montgomerie went on.
Harrington hasn't won on Tour in more than two years since completing sensational back-to-back victories at the British Open and US PGA championships and Montgomerie's decision to hand him a Ryder Cup wild card ahead of world No 7 Paul Casey was highly controversial.
Yet the Dubliner relieved pressure on himself and his captain with his performance last weekend. After scraping through the cut on the mark on Friday, he shot 15 birdies and one eagle at the weekend after ironing out a serious kink in his putting.
The golf course last weekend in Chabourcy might seem tame compared to the test he'll face at Celtic Manor, but Harrington's grand total of 27 birdies in 72 holes (even when viewed alongside his two double-bogeys and a triple) suggest a return to the form which made him such a formidable match-player in earlier days.
"It was very important for Padraig to make the cut, for one," Montgomerie explained. "Then to shoot seven birdies and an eagle on Sunday, I thought that was tremendous.
"You know, he went from 40th place to finishing just one shot off third. I think that was most important for him and for the team.
"Padraig flew back to Dublin, dropped off his brothers (Fergal and Tadhg), picked up his wife Caroline and came here," Montgomerie said, adding: "And in the past 18 months, I've not seen him as happy as he was on arrival on Sunday night."
Harrington (39) last night declared himself satisfied with the state of his game, especially on the putting green, as he enters his sixth Ryder Cup.
"My game was never broken," he insisted. "I'm just going to keep working on the same things I worked on last week. I didn't putt very well on the first two days in Paris, so I worked on that and putted lovely on the last two days.
"The ball was coming out very nicely on line and I'm continuing to work on that. That's where my main focus will be, because there's not a huge amount I need to do on my swing.
"Hopefully I'm peaking just at the right time. That'd be nice. There's nothing like making a few birdies to give your confidence a timely boost, and hopefully I can carry that through to this week.
"Last week was good preparation for match-play golf, because you had to keep chasing birdies on that course. So I'm glad the tournament was played on that course, and I'm glad it was a low-scoring week where you had to try and go after every shot."
Harrington vowed to continue his attacking approach this week, having by his own admission erred too far on the side of caution in previous contests.
He said: "In match play, I need to be more aggressive -- that's certainly a failing I've had in the last few years. Hopefully I can get the balance right this week."
Monty, meanwhile, is determined to become the first captain in the history of the Ryder Cup to return to the arena as a player. The 47-year-old has targeted Medinah in 2012 for his first taste of the playing action since 2006.
When both captains were asked yesterday if they felt any longing to play at Celtic Manor, Corey Pavin insisted he did not, because his off-course duties mean he "hadn't touched a club for a month".
Monty then brought the house down when he weighed in, "I haven't hit a golf shot for about two years," adding: "It's the first time I've arrived at a Ryder Cup with no golf clubs and, I assure you, it feels strange in many ways -- quite weird.
"But after the great honour and responsibility of being a captain, I intend to do my utmost to try and make the team in 2012."