Wednesday 20 February 2019

'There will be one change that will be talked about - a lot' - Padraig Harrington on Ryder Cup strategy

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

Brian Keogh

Pádraig Harrington's wrist injury will keep him out of action for at least another fortnight but he has his finger on the pulse when it comes to Rory McIlroy's Masters build-up or Shane Lowry and Paul Dunne as potential Ryder Cup rookies.

Having seen the last three captains live in fear of showing bias towards their countrymen, the 2020 skipper made it crystal clear that Lowry and Dunne had better qualify on merit or do something extraordinary to get a wildcard.

"Shane couldn't have got a better win," said Harrington of Lowry's Abu Dhabi heroics.

"It's not going to get him on the team, but it puts him in the tournaments that mean it's within his control. You don't make the Ryder Cup if you're not in the top 50 in the world.

"So he's put himself in position and come September 1, when the qualifying starts, he'll be in the driving seat. It'll be up to him. It's all about self-confidence. There is nothing Shane can do bar play his own game and trust that's good enough."

Teasing the press at the opening of Peter Lawrie's Spawell Golf Academy this week, Harrington revealed his qualifying criteria may raise eyebrows.

"I have decided what I am doing," he said with a grin. There will be one change that will be talked about - a lot - when it is announced. I'm not going to say it until (the Tour) are ready. But I instigated it."

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After medics advised him to give his fractured wrist more time to heal and skip next week's AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, the Dubliner (47) has been keenly watching out, not for form, but "personalities and attitudes" and potential "fringe" players.

Dunne is the kind of man he'd "love" to have under his orders, and he'll have seen him put two missed cuts behind him and open with two-under 68 in the Saudi International yesterday.

Behind

The Greystones star (26) shares 31st with the likes of Ian Poulter, Bryson DeChambeau and Dustin Johnson and lies just five shots behind Ryder Cup player Thomas Pieters, who leads by two from six players following a 63, with world No 1 Justin Rose taking 70.

"He's had a slow start, but Paul Dunne 'has' something," Harrington said.

"He has that little bit of X factor, he's got a great short game, he has a little bit of bottle in him.

"Somebody like Paul, if they hit form or are in good form, they have the bottle that you want in the Ryder Cup."

McIlroy will be critical to Harrington's Wisconsin masterplan and he admitted he watched the Holywood star's effortless-looking, back-to-back top-five finishes to start the season with envy.

"I'd love to be in his spikes (in the Genesis Open) because there is a win coming pretty quickly and Rory's hoping it doesn't come that quickly," said Harrington.

"He is hoping it comes in about 10 weeks. But it's right there. He could easily cross that line with just a putt or two."

At the PGA Tour's Waste Management Phoenix Open, Seamus Power made three birdies and three bogeys in a level-par 71 and now has work to do to avoid his seventh missed cut in a row and his eighth in nine starts.

Scoring was hot in ideal conditions but Power hit just six fairways and ended his day seven shots behind early clubhouse leaders Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler.

The US Ryder Cup duo posted bogey-free 64s to lead by two strokes from England's Tyrrell Hatton, who made just one error in a five-under 66 in his first appearance at TPC Scottsdale.

  • Saudi International, Live, Sky Sports, 8.0am
  • Phoenix Open, Live, Sky Sports, 8.0pm

Irish Independent

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