Sport Golf

Thursday 22 February 2018

Padraig’s absence ‘a shame’ –McGinley

Bernie McGuire at Gleneagles

AfteR being "pushed into a corner", Ryder Cup vice-captain Paul McGinley sided with a groundswell of opinion that Padraig Harrington should have returned to Europe and sought to qualify automatically for the Ryder Cup team.

Harrington was just 1,247 points away from an automatic qualifying position ahead of last week's Czech Open -- that was less than half the €2,976 prize cheque handed to fellow Irishman Gary Murphy for finishing 79th and at the tail of the field in Celadna.

Instead, Sweden's Peter Hanson made the journey from the US PGA in Wisconsin to the Czech Republic to capture a second Tour victory this year, and he is now standing on the brink of a first ever European team cap.

Harrington found himself bumped two places outside of qualifying and now -- despite showing good form on day two of the Barclays Championship in New Jersey yesterday -- has to rely on European captain Colin Montgomerie choosing him tomorrow night as one of his three Celtic Manor wild-card picks.

McGinley added a second-round two-under-par 70 to his opening round of 68 to move to six-under-par, just three strokes off the lead in the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles.


However, on emerging from the scorer's hut, McGinley found there was no escaping a media 'ambush', with close to a dozen reporters looking to speak with the Dubliner.

After the courtesy of asking McGinley about his round of three birdies and one bogey, it was straight into the subject of the make-up of the European team.

"You're pushing me into a corner," he said. "Everything was a shame. Padraig was a thousand euro out of the team before last week, so make up your own mind. It's disappointing. Padraig is a world-class player and I've been fortunate to play great Ryder Cup matches with him and he's a really good friend of mine.

"But he's in for a pick. He hasn't qualified for the team and by his own admission, and from what someone was quoting him as saying, he hasn't had his schedule quite right and as a result he's looking for a pick.

"But then he's one of a number of really strong picks and unfortunately we didn't envisage so many top players would be outside the top-nine qualifiers."

Four of seven players canvassed earlier this week at Gleneagles declined to select Harrington when asked their three choices.

And yesterday, England's Howard Clark, a member of the five Ryder Cup teams from 1977 to 1995, also didn't think Harrington should be chosen.

"I looked at Padraig's stats this year and they're very poor," said Clark. "Then I checked his stats last night after the first round of the Barclays Championship and he hit just half the fairways, and you can't have someone like that in Ryder Cup foursomes, as that puts you right up against a brick wall when someone's not hitting fairways.

"I was also looking back at Padraig's Ryder Cup stats and he's only managed two half-points in the last nine matches and that doesn't make for good reading."

But McGinley afterwards made the remark that could see Harrington make the grade. "There's that old saying that form is temporary, class is permanent," said McGinley.

Frenchman Julien Guerrier (67) and the England duo of David Lynn (68) and Gary Boyd (68) share the Gleneagles lead by two strokes at nine under par.

McGinley is among a handful of players, including Ryder Cup aspirants Miguel Angel Jimenez (68), Simon Dyson (68) and Edoardo Molinari (68) on six under par. Damien McGrane birdied three holes in succession to be just a stroke further back at five under.

Johnnie Walker Championship,

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Irish Independent

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