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Sunday 20 October 2019

Harrington believes Ryder Cup could head towards ‘neutral set-up’ courses

Rory McIlroy has called for tougher European Tour courses.

By PA Sport Staff

European Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington could see the tournament evolving into one being based on a “neutral set-up” in the future.

Harrington was at Whistling Straits on Tuesday to join United States captain Steve Stricker in marking one year to go to the 2020 showpiece event in Kohler, Wisconsin.

Rory McIlroy has called for tougher European Tour courses, which the Northern Irishman believes are necessary to produce better players and so help improve Europe’s Ryder Cup chances.

Harrington will be out to guide Europe to a successful defence of the Ryder Cup following the 17-and-a-half to 10-and-a-half victory at Le Golf National in Paris last year.

The Irishman, twice winner of the Open, told a press conference: “There is a substantial difference, I would advocate even too much of a difference, between home and away.

“Clearly in Europe, we get to set the golf course up, and we set it up in every way we can to suit our players, and in the (United) States, we have seen that as well, where it is set up to be the most advantageous for the home team.

“It is not going to happen probably in my lifetime, but 40 or 50 years down the road with the Ryder Cup still going along, it would probably be best to have a neutral set-up where there is no setting up a golf course as we did in Europe (last time) so that it was very tight off the tee and it made it a real difficult, where par was a good score.

“Whereas, if you went back to Hazeltine (in 2016), it was more of a birdie-fest where the statisticians get involved and tell us what suits each team.

“Thankfully here at Whistling Straits this is a much more natural golf course and I am interested to see what Steve has in store, but it does not look like you can do a lot with this golf course.

“Even the weather could be very changeable the week of the Ryder Cup next year. So in many ways, this is a golf course that is just going to test the players on its own merits.”

USA captain Stricker insisted there would be “no real tricks” in 2020, when his team will be out to make the most of home advantage any way they can.

“They know how we like to set up the golf courses, just as we know how they like to set up,” Stricker said.

“I am sure what he (Harrington) has got envisaged in his mind is going to be the way it is going to be.

“When we go (to Europe) next time (in Rome 2022), I am sure it will be much like Paris.

“There is no real tricks here. It is not going to be eight on the Stimpmeter, like it was in Paris, it is not going to be as high a rough as it was in Paris.

“But it is a bit more of a challenge here. It is a links-style course, although a lot of it is still played through the air than it is overseas.”

Harrington is hoping to bring his own leadership style to the squad, having been one of the vice-captains under Thomas Bjorn in Paris.

“When you become a vice captain, you start seeing a lot more and obviously because of that, you start learning a lot more the demands of the players and how to fit them together and manage all the different personalities in a team,” the 48-year-old said.

“There are so many styles of captaincy. You do see that. I don’t believe I’m going to be one or the other. I’ll hopefully be a mixture of most.

“But then as vice captain you tend to learn a lot about the tactics that go in behind that, and it is difficult.”

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Team Europe were impressive as they reclaimed the Ryder Cup in Paris. (David Davies/PA)

Stricker is confident the USA can redress the balance after coming up so short in Paris.

“For me, it’s about moving forward, learning from the past a little bit, taking some of the things that we haven’t done so well in,” he said.

“Then trying to apply that next year – and it is about playing better.”

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