Sunday 20 January 2019

'It's not something I went into lightly' - Padraig Harrington named as the European captain for the 2020 Ryder Cup

European Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington during the Team Europe Ryder Cup Press Conference at the Wentworth Golf Club, Surrey. Adam Davy/PA Wire.
European Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington during the Team Europe Ryder Cup Press Conference at the Wentworth Golf Club, Surrey. Adam Davy/PA Wire.
Padraig Harrington of the Republic of Ireland poses with the Ryder Cup trophy as he is announced as the European Ryder Cup Captain for 2020
Europe's Padraig Harrington celebrates with the Ryder Cup in 2010

John Brennan

Padraig Harrington was today named Captain of the European Ryder Cup team in 2020. The worst-kept secret in golf was finally made public by the PGA at a press conference outside London at lunchtime.

The Dubliner will be an appropriate leader of the European side at the Whistling Straits course in Wisconsin at the end of September 2020. On the shores of Lake Michigan, the golf course is modelled on an Irish links set-up and the resort’s founder, Herb Kohler, proudly flies the Tricolour alongside the Stars and Stripes there every day.

It was only a question of ‘when’ Harrington would captain Europe as his status as a three-time Major champion assured him of the nod at some point in his career.

It means Irishmen have now captained three out of four European teams following Paul McGinley in 2014 and Darren Clarke in 2016. Perhaps that remarkable run will finally erase the anger of some older folk in Irish golf who still feel aggrieved that the first man ever to play in ten Ryder Cups, Christy O’Connor Snr, was repeatedly snubbed for the captaincy in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.

And that neither Des Smyth nor Eamonn Darcy got the nod for the Ryder Cup at the K Club a dozen years ago.

Harrington himself has played in six Ryder Cups and has been a Vice-Captain in the last three, under McGinley, Clarke and last year’s winning leader in Paris, Thomas Bjorn of Denmark.

No doubt Harrington will bring his own thoughts and experiences to the role of leading 12 men who spend most of their professional lives trying beat each other. Moulding them into a team will not be easy, but men like Bernhard Langer (2004) and McGinley have shown the 47-year-old Harrington how to do it.

Having played Whistling Straits three times during in his career, Harrington also knows what the course is like. He won’t make the mistake of American captain Jim Furyk last year who ended up with an American team of players who drove the ball a long way, when what was needed at Le Golf National was players who drove the ball accurately.

Harrington will also defuse an issue about Rory McIlroy’s comments on the European Tour last week when the younger golfer made it clear he would not play on the European Tour this year until June.

McIlroy will be Europe’s leader on the course at Whistling Straits, Harrington will lead in the team-room and in the long build-up to September 2020.

Speaking at a press conference at European Tour headquarters in Wentworth, Harrington said: "Obviously I'm thrilled to be named as Ryder Cup captain for 2020, it's not something I went into lightly.

"You could look at this as being a natural progression from player to vice-captain to captain but it's not something I take on without a certain amount of trepidation.

"I really want to be a help. I want to hopefully leave the European Tour and Ryder Cup in a better place after two years, but I know we are going to a new venue, it's an away match, we're going to have on average three more rookies coming into the team.

"I have to be part of that team and ensure that I find an edge to make the team perform to the best of their abilities and hopefully get a win."

Despite winning two Open titles and the US PGA Championship, Harrington feels he is putting his career "on the line" by accepting the captaincy.

"It's something I did think long and hard about," he added.

"It's possibly easier to be Ryder Cup captain at home, but I realise it was good timing in my career and probably the best chance for the team in an international setting, going to the US having me as captain at this time.

"Then it really came down to whether I wanted to be in the hat and put what is a successful career on the line.

"It's a different element to your career and we know a successful captain is great and a losing captain - it's his fault. I'm putting something on the line going out there."

More to follow

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