Sport Golf

Sunday 15 September 2019

Ryder Cup triumph essential to stop US momentum - Harrington

Padraig Harrington. Photo: PA
Padraig Harrington. Photo: PA

Brian Keogh

Padraig Harrington insists Europe must win in Paris if they're to stop the Americans starting a new era of dominance in the Ryder Cup.

The race to become world No 1 might be tighter than ever but the battle to make Europe's Ryder Cup team is equally ferocious and with $7 million (€6 million) up for grabs in this week's Italian Open - the second of eight Rolex Series events - it's a huge chance for the likes of Paul Dunne to make a big move.

Harrington, who is joined in Brescia this week by fellow vice-captains Graeme McDowell, Robert Karlsson and Lee Westwood, is considered the favourite to captain Europe in 2020.

But if he does get the job, he wants to go to Whistling Straits with the trophy in his carry-on luggage.

"We need to stop the American momentum," Harrington told ESPN. "We need to win it back."

With Whistling Straits two years away, he added: "I'm not concerned with the future, I'm only concerned with this year. We need to win it back."

Nobody knows better than the Dubliner that, despite five and six-point winning margins in the last two Ryder Cups, the event is now tighter than it's ever been.

And while the Americans haven't won on European soil for 25 years, they are on a high and Harrington is already keeping a close eye on the players who could join the stalwart on the team.

He's "drawn" this week with Swede Alexander Bjork, who is 15th in the European Points list with over one million points but could move into the eight automatic berths with his second win of the season.

"Four months out the idea is that rather than 12 players, there are probably 25 players in the mix," Harrington said of his mission.

"Every one of them has to have an association with at least one of the vice-captains, so he has someone to turn to during the week if he needs to say something."

Harrington played with potential team members Rafa Cabrera Bello and Ross Fisher at Wentworth and that scenario will be repeated over the summer months.

It's a strategy put in place by Paul McGinley and it will help Harrington get to know players that might find themselves in the Ryder Cup cauldron at Le Golf National in September.

He knows Dunne well and when asked by ESPN if the Greystones man and Offaly's Shane Lowry had a better chance of a wildcard given the Irishmen in Thomas Bjorn's backroom team, he couldn't resist a joke.

"Between myself and Graeme McDowell I'd say we've the ability to block vote," Harrington said mischievously.

"There are four captain's picks in theory, but I'd be saying there's just the two because Shane and Paul have got two of them locked in thanks to us. We'll be making sure, don't be worrying about that."

While Lowry and Rory McIlroy are playing the Memorial on the PGA Tour in Ohio this week, a host of potential Ryder Cup team members are in action in Italy.

They're headed by BMW PGA Championship winner Francesco Molinari, defending champion Tyrrell Hatton, world No 11 Tommy Fleetwood and the in-form Swede Alex Noren.

Cabrera Bello, Fisher, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Alexander Levy also tee it up.

And while Hatton still leads the European Points List after winning the Alfred Dunhill Links and the following week's Italian Open at the start of the qualifying campaign, he's struggled for form recently, missing three of his last four cuts.

"It would nice to recapture some of that form again," Hatton confessed yesterday.

"Wentworth was a tough week. It wasn't ideal preparation prior to that where I'd had a bit of an issue with my wrist.

"I needed a cortisone injection so it didn't really give me any time to practise the week prior to Wentworth.

"I was going in there a little bit rusty, just hoping that I could still play well and it didn't really work out."

Irish Independent

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