Sport Golf

Monday 11 December 2017

It's all-or-nothing for Harrington

Karl MacGinty at Whistling Straits

ON the day in which Tiger Woods pledged his allegiance to the US Ryder Cup cause, Padraig Harrington revealed how this week's PGA Championship is for him, an all-or-nothing effort to win his place on the European team at Celtic Manor.

No question, all the really serious talk at Whistling Straits yesterday was about October's Ryder Cup, with World No 1 Woods settling recent arguments about his commitment to the event with a one word answer to the most pertinent question of the week.

Asked would he accept a wild card from US skipper Corey Pavin, Tiger's reply was an emphatic "Yes!"


So, the ball is now in Pavin's court and even if Woods produced the worst performance of his professional career at Firestone on Sunday, it's impossible to imagine the American team captain leaving the World No 1 on the sidelines.

Especially if a touch of remedial work Woods has done at Whistling Straits this week with up-and-coming Canadian coach Sean Foley bears fruit and he produces a performance more in keeping with a 14-times Major champion.

Harrington made his situation equally clear yesterday. The Dubliner will make one last-ditch effort to fight his way into Colin Montgomerie's team at Whistling Straits.

And should it not work out the way he intends, Harrington yesterday revealed he'd not change his upcoming tournament schedule to include the final European qualifying event at Gleneagles, relying instead on a pick from Monty.

This move would be strongly reminiscent of former European skipper Nick Faldo's decision to hand Ian Poulter a wild card for Valhalla after his fellow Englishman's hotly controversial decision to skip the 2008 Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles.

Describing his current position in the Ryder Cup rankings as "very precarious," Harrington went on: "Anybody who doesn't qualify automatically shouldn't be on the team. If you don't make it on merit, you are asking for a little bit of favour. I'm going to try and make the team by qualifying and that's my aim this week."

Harrington is currently just €13,246 shy of qualifying by the European money list, though he believes his best chance of making the team will be through the world rankings. At present, he's 26 points outside of the all-important top-four in the world-rankings category. He'd scrape into the side with an outright fourth place next Sunday, though second or, of course, a repeat of his US PGA victory at Oakland Hills in 2008 would put Harrington's Ryder Cup place beyond doubt.

"The goal is to get in on world ranking points because, obviously, that category closes in a week's time," he said. "Even if I pass Miguel Angel Jimenez in the money on Sunday, he can jump past me in the last event (at Gleneagles).

Harrington believes his game is in good enough shape to render academic any further talk about his Ryder Cup prospects.

Yet he agreed that skipping Gleneagles and relying on a captain's pick would be "a very awkward situation. The last time round, one of the players got picked who didn't come and play the last event and I kind of felt he should have.

"Now I could be in the same situation," Harrington went on.

"I've got a commitment to do a Special Olympics clinic at The Barclays (in New Jersey) that week and I don't want to let them down."

There's also the pertinent question of The Barclays Championship itself, first of the lucrative FedEx Cup play-offs. "I'm committed to my own schedule," Harrington said. "So, yeah, all those commitments are taking me away (from Gleneagles) . . . it certainly could put me under pressure for that pick."

Should Harrington not make it this week, Montgomerie will have a severe headache dispensing his three wild cards, with Justin Rose, Paul Casey, Henrik Stenson, Robert Karlsson and Edoardo Molinari prominent among those outside the Ryder Cup pale at present.

The European skipper, who played a practice round at Whistling Straits with Karlsson yesterday, will reserve comment until Sunday, saying: "I'll be in a better position to answer your questions then."

Significantly, Harrington understands he'll not be alone in his decision to skip Gleneagles, saying: "I have talked to some of the other guys who may be looking for a pick and they are all saying they're playing Barclays, so it'll be interesting to see who'll jump ship."


Despite his horrific display at last week's Bridgestone Invitational, Woods was encouraged enough by his performance in practice at Whistling Straits yesterday to match Harrington's Ryder Cup pledge with one of his own.

Revealing that Pavin had not yet delivered on his promise to speak with him this week, Tiger said: "I haven't seen him and, hopefully, I won't be a pick. I would like to be able to play myself onto that team."

Woods is 10th in the US Ryder Cup rankings and needs a top-five finish at the US PGA to become one of the automatic eight on Pavin's team when the qualifying process closes on Sunday evening.

Tiger confirmed that Foley cast an eye (and a video lens) over his swing as he played a practice round yesterday with two of the coach's star pupils, Hunter Mahan and Sean O'Hair, though he declined to say if the Canadian would be Hank Haney's long-term replacement.

Irish Independent

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