Wednesday 23 January 2019

Harrington nursing broken wrist ahead of D-Day for Ryder Cup job

Despite the setback of a broken bone in his left wrist, Pádraig Harrington is likely to be named Ryder Cup captain on Tuesday. Photo: John Walton/PA
Despite the setback of a broken bone in his left wrist, Pádraig Harrington is likely to be named Ryder Cup captain on Tuesday. Photo: John Walton/PA

Brian Keogh

Team Europe needs a strong hand on the tiller as it voyages to the US to defend the Ryder Cup next year and Pádraig Harrington looks certain to get the nod next week, even if he takes over with his left wrist in a splint.

The Dubliner (47) is widely expected to be the man named as Europe's 2020 captain at Wentworth Club next Tuesday after the European Tour yesterday announced a 1pm "Ryder Cup Press Conference" at its Virginia Water HQ.

Had things gone smoothly over Christmas, Harrington would be hitting thousands of balls in preparation for his first two events of the 2019 season in the Middle East.

Instead, he's nursing a broken bone in his left wrist after suffering a fall on the stairs shortly before Christmas and won't return to action until next month's AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am at the earliest.

"Over the Christmas period I discovered that I had broken a bone in my wrist," Harrington said in a statement on his website yesterday.

Slipped

"I had slipped whilst walking down the stairs at home in mid-December. Whilst it continues to heal, I need to keep it in a splint a little while longer so, frustratingly, I will need to miss the first two planned events of my season in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

"However, I should be fully fit for the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-am on the PGA Tour in early February."

While he will be frustrated not to be back for the start of the European Tour's Desert Swing in a fortnight, injuries have rarely stopped the man widely endorsed by his peers as the best man to lead Europe into battle on US soil in two years' time.

His trademark ability to overcome all odds has elevated him to the status of European Tour legend, despite his health scrapes.

While he's not the first golfer to suffer a fall on the stairs - Dustin Johnson missed the 2017 Masters after he slipped in his stockinged feet in his rented house in Augusta - Harrington's mishaps have only served to illustrate his innate ability to bounce back from any reverse.

When his old neck injury flared up during the third round of the 2002 US PGA at Hazeltine, requiring his Australian physio Dale Richardson to put him in a choke hold, he refused to withdraw and fought through the pain to finish tied 17th behind Rich Beem.

As it turned out, his neck trouble may have been triggered by a vigorous workout on a virtual-reality boxing game he'd played in a video arcade the previous evening.

And there were more bizarre injuries to come. While his troublesome neck forced him to miss nearly nine weeks of the 2017 season after undergoing surgery on a trapped nerve, he had only battled back to full fitness when an amateur he was coaching hit him full on the elbow with a practice swing during an outing in the US a few weeks later.

"I thought it was the end of me playing competitive golf," Harrington tweeted. "There's no truth in the rumour that it was the amateur's best strike of the day."

That accident didn't stop him playing the following week's US Open or returning for The Open at Royal Birkdale, where he had overcome a wrist injury to win back-to-back Claret Jugs in 2008.

The Dubliner had injured his right wrist hitting an impact bag the weekend before his title defence but went on to lift the Claret Jug again with one of the great Major performances before going on to overcome dehydration to win the US PGA a fortnight later.

With six Ryder Cup appearances as a player as well as three successive vice-captaincies under his belt, his bulletproof confidence and easy-going demeanour has made him the ideal man to lead Europe's Ryder Cup defence.

Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose have all backed his candidacy while Shane Lowry, who'd love to make his debut under the Dubliner in Minnesota, reckons that there's no better man for the job.

"He will be captain when he wants to be," Lowry said. "If he wants this one, I am sure he's going to get it. He will be great."

Irish Independent

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