Sunday 19 November 2017

Harrington must be Ryder pick – Smyth

Des Smyth believes Padraig Harrington should be picked by Colin Montgomerie for the Ryder Cup showdown at Celtic Manor
Des Smyth believes Padraig Harrington should be picked by Colin Montgomerie for the Ryder Cup showdown at Celtic Manor

Bernie McGuire

Padraig Harrington is a natural team leader and Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie cannot afford to leave him out of his European team.

That's the view of Irish golfing great Des Smyth as Harrington continues to attract criticism for electing to remain in the United States to prepare for next week's start in New Jersey to the rich FedEx Cup play-off series.

Harrington's decision not to return to Europe and seek to automatically qualify for the team has also fuelled speculation Montgomerie has already informed the triple Major winner that he will be afforded a captain's pick on Sunday week when his full 12-man side is made known.

However, Smyth, who was a vice-captain to Ian Woosnam at the K Club in 2006, supports Harrington's decision. "Padraig made it very clear at the start of the season what his schedule would be so he can't walk away from his commitments because of the Ryder Cup, as organisers build their tournament around him being present," said Smyth.

"How many other players can Monty choose who have won three Majors? Padraig was just fantastic in the K Club locker-room. He's a great guy and, while his on-course record may not be that good, in the team room Padraig is invaluable. He's a natural leader and an obvious future European captain.

"Monty's going to need leaders in there and Padraig has all the credentials."

Smyth was commenting ahead of the start of today's Scottish Seniors Open on the Torrance course at St Andrews Bay.

And after watching TV coverage of the US PGA Championship, Smyth is very critical of organisers in allowing spectators to congregate in the bunker that brought Dustin Johnson undone last Sunday.

"The rules were very clear but the organisers are to blame as they should never have had the people standing in those bunkers down 18," he said.

Smyth is joined in the 78-player St Andrews field by fellow Irishmen Eamonn Darcy and Denis O'Sullivan.

SHANE LOWRY endured a disappointing return to action on the European Tour when he carded a 75 at the Czech Open.

Having missed the cut at the US PGA, the Clara man would have hoped to have benefitted from more benign conditions than he found at Whistling Straits but four bogeys and a single birdie left him nine shots behind leader Shiv Kapur. There was better news for Michael Hoey and Peter Lawrie, who are both tied for 11th after rounds of 70.

Peter Hanson lurks as the biggest danger to Kapur -- and to Paul Casey in the Ryder Cup race. The 32-year-old Swede would oust the absent Casey from Europe's top nine with victory at the Prosper Resort in Celadna on Sunday, and a five-under-par 67 has left him just one behind Kapur.

Hanson lies 15th in the points race, but there is a £272,640 first prize and, as one of only two of the world's top 50 in the field, it is a golden opportunity. The other is Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez. Currently eighth on the cup table, he started with a 71 and should be concerned about the possibility of being overtaken by Hanson as well.

English trio Simon Dyson, Oliver Wilson and Ross McGowan are also chasing a spot in Colin Montgomerie's side. They shot 70, 72 and 73 respectively.

Cork's Gillian O'Leary dramatically dropped out of contention for the British Ladies Open stroke play title at Tenby in Wales yesterday after a nightmare of an eight on a short hole. The Irish international, just two strokes off the pace after the first round, played in the worst of the weather late in the day and was unable to reproduce her form of the first day.

When she dropped five strokes on the 165-yard 17th it was was the last straw and she finished with an 86 -- 16 strokes worse than her opening-day offering. Her 156 aggregate means that with two rounds remaining she is 10 strokes off the pace. "It was horrendous today -- I just want to forget it," she said.

Defending champion Danielle McVeigh from Royal County Down posted a 36-hole total of 158 and made the cut with a stroke to spare -- but her chances of retaining the title have all but disappeared. McVeigh came back in a splendid bogey-free 34 for a 77. She had suffered two double bogeys on her way to the turn in 43.

Leading at halfway on 146 are Scottish international Pamela Prestwell and Holland's Chrisje De Vries, one stroke ahead of Welsh teenager Amy Boulden.

Carlow's Aedin Murphy had two double-bogeys and a bogey in the last four holes to miss the cut -- she shot 83 for a 163 total. Galway's Sinead O'Sullivan (162), Maureen Diamond of Portstewart (166) and Bangor's Victoria Bradshaw (171) also missed out.

American John Rollins' six-under-par opening-round 64 gave him a one-shot clubhouse lead at the Wyndham Championship in North Carolina. Rollins produced seven birdies and a solitary bogey to lead compatriots Jay Williamson and Jason Gore by a shot. Andres Romero was one of the few high-profile names in the field and the Argentinian's round of 66 left him two back from Rollins.

Czech Open,

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