Monday 23 April 2018

Padraig Harrington desperate to get back in frame for Ryder Cup

Padraig Harrington tees off on the first hole watched by his caddie Ronan Flood during a practice round at Kingsbarns yesterday for the Dunhill Links Championship which gets underway today
Padraig Harrington tees off on the first hole watched by his caddie Ronan Flood during a practice round at Kingsbarns yesterday for the Dunhill Links Championship which gets underway today

Alasdair Reid

PADRAIG HARRINGTON has spoken of his determination to make it back on to Europe's Ryder Cup team for Gleneagles in 2014 after missing out on the trip to the US last year.

Harrington, whose run of six consecutive Ryder Cup appearances came to an end when he failed to make the team for Kiawah Island, admitted: "Missing out certainly makes you more anxious.

"I thought I would just make the team, but I didn't. Now I'm thinking about what I didn't do last time and what I should do now."

Harrington has two British Open titles and a USPGA Championship to his name, but he believes being part of the Ryder Cup dwarfs any other experience the sport has to offer.

Harrington said: "The more excited the crowd, even when they are against you, the better it is. For me, the most memorable Ryder Cup was the one at Brookline (in 1999) that we lost. It was just electric. Some bad things went on, but none of that happened for me. To this day, I've never experienced anything like the atmosphere there."

Strongest

With six Americans in the top 10 of the world rankings, the indications are that the US team at Gleneagles could be their strongest for a number of years.

"They are certainly looking a lot stronger than a year ago," another Major winner, Paul Lawrie, acknowledged. "The stats show that."

However, Harrington believes that a European revival is also on the cards. "In some ways, the Europeans have taken a step back," the Dubliner said. "But that might be good timing for a Ryder Cup in a year's time. Players tend to play well for 18 months and then have a bit of a lull. But they will get back to the heights if they are really good players."

Players like Rory McIlroy, for instance? "Definitely," said Harrington of the 24-year-old Holywood, Co Down man who has fallen from first to sixth in the world rankings in six months.

"He's done it twice already. He has had periods when people have questioned him, and then a few months later everyone is wondering if he can ever be beaten.

"The more he embraces the ebb and flow of his genius, the highs will be longer and the lows will be shorter. If you go back and look at the results of all the great players – Palmer, Snead, even Nicklaus – I think you'll find they were not as consistent as we're sometimes led to believe."

Lawrie added: "It looks like he's just one of those players who goes through spells. But he will have learnt an awful lot about himself and what's best for him this year. The difficult thing is that he was starting to struggle a bit and not play as well as he could while he was No 1 in the world.

"That's tough, because you are in the media spotlight and everyone is asking what is wrong. That must be hard to deal with. I've never been that good a player that people were talking about how well or how poorly I was playing."

Harrington was Paul McGinley's regular playing partner in three Ryder Cups, while Lawrie worked with the 2014 European team captain when he was one of Jose Maria Olazabal's assistants at Medinah last year. Both men agree that McGinley will be unerringly thorough in his preparations for Gleneagles.

"He puts the work in," Harrington said. "He has paid attention to the nuances from his time as a player and a vice-captain. As yet, he hasn't put a foot wrong in anything he's done, which is great. I think he will want to create an intense spirit in the team room. I played a lot of World Cup golf with him and he liked to get in there. He's niggly.

"He likes to fight. He'll want a rousing atmosphere. It won't just be some sort of jolly week."

Meanwhile, Lawrie, for his part, produced a suitably ballistic response to the news that the big guns of British and Irish golf will be absent when the Seve Trophy gets under way in France next week.

Speaking on the eve of the Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews, which gets under way this morning, the Scot did little to disguise his anger and bewilderment at the fact that a tournament that honours the greatest figure in the modern history of European golf will not be graced by a host of top players who have turned down invitations to take part.

McIlroy, Justin Rose, Graeme McDowell, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter had all qualified for the Great Britain and Ireland team who will take on Continental Europe at the Saint-Nom-La Breteche course near Paris. And Lawrie is furious about it.

"For many of our boys not to want to play in an event that not only carries Seve's name, but you get handsomely paid to play in, I don't understand it," he said. "It's disappointing for everyone involved in it: for the Tour, who have done a great job putting it on, and for Seve and his family.

"It's Seve's name. I mean, my God, most of us are out there playing because of what Seve did years ago. I'd walk to Paris to play on that team next week. I think it's important.

"You're representing GB&I and you're representing Seve, what he stood for, for us and for Europe. He started it all off for us. I personally would never turn down playing in that. They made their decision and it's up to them. But, for me, I would have done whatever to play on that team."

Lawrie, who will now be the senior figure in GB&I captain Sam Torrance's side in France, was in the same Ryder Cup team as the stayaway six at Medinah last year. And with a year to go until the next staging of the event, at Gleneagles, the Scot's thoughts are already turning to the possibility of making his third appearance in the transatlantic tournament.

However, Lawrie stressed the importance of not putting too much pressure on himself to qualify. "You have to get the balance right between wanting to be in the team and not trying too hard," he said. "When Sam was captain at The Belfry (in 2002) I tried too hard and missed out. I got it right last year, when I wanted desperately to be in the side but didn't think about it every second of the day." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

GB&I – S Torrance (capt), P Casey, J Donaldson, S Gallacher, T Fleetwood, S Jamieson, S Khan, Paul Lawrie, D Lynn, M Warren, C Wood.

CONTINENTAL EUROPE – JM Olazabal (capt), T Bjorn, G Bourdy, N Colsaerts, P Hanson, M Ilonen, MA Jimenez, J Luiten, M Manassero, F Molinari, T Olesen.

Alfred Dunhill Links,

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