Saturday 23 September 2017

Pair's early form excites Monty

Padraig Harrington during a practice round at Celtic Manor. Photo: PA
Padraig Harrington during a practice round at Celtic Manor. Photo: PA

LEE WESTWOOD (ENG)

AGE: 37
RYDER CUP CAPS: 6
RECORD: W14 H5 L10
BEST PAIRING: KAYMER

Recovering well from a calf injury, Westwood is again poised to be Europe’s linchpin. Boasts a superb long game plus four top-three finishes in his last six Majors, and likely to impart invaluable experience.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON (IRE)

AGE: 39
CAPS: 5
RECORD: W7 H3 L11
BEST PAIRING: DONALD

Conventional wisdom would suggest you do not leave out a three-time Major champion, but he is still Europe’s most controversial wild card. Has not won a Ryder Cup match since 2004.

Padraig Harrington and Lee Westwood might have been Europe's greatest worries a week ago, but it was a different story when official Ryder Cup practice began at Celtic Manor today.

According to captain Colin Montgomerie - and perhaps he is not the most impartial observer - the two biggest stars in his side are already turning on the style.

Harrington was, of course, the most hotly-debated wildcard pick, earning the vote over world number seven Paul Casey despite failing to win a game in the last two matches.

"There are reasons why Padraig Harrington was picked and judge me about that selection on October 4 and not on September 26," said a defiant Montgomerie, who with Harrington beat Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in the opening tussle of the 2004 contest in Detroit.

"I feel the criticism was very unjustified to be honest. I know what Padraig Harrington can do and that's why he was picked.

"He's had three eagles already. He's playing the best golf of my team.

"He's a world player, he's won three major championships and the stature of the guy is second to none within our team.

"I met him when he came in on Sunday evening (following a 64 in Paris). He walked into the Celtic Manor as if he was a rookie - fantastic - and was really up about the whole thing and has been since!"

Westwood, at third in the world Europe's top-ranked player and most experienced Ryder Cup campaigner with six caps, has not played a tournament since August 6 because of a torn calf muscle.

For all the Worksop golfer's confident words as he started playing again last week, Celtic Manor has some serious slopes to test out his fitness.

Montgomerie admitted he was very eager to see how he went and commented: "For him to start off so confidently with three birdies in the first four holes ... I know it means very little on Tuesday, but it's always good for one's self-esteem to start off that way.

"He's not played in six or seven weeks and he starts ripping the ball like he is, so I'm very excited for Lee Westwood this week.

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