Pádraig confident he will be back
A PIT stop along the way, not the end of the road! Pádraig Harrington has adopted the approach that his failure to make next month’s Ryder Cup in Chicago is a temporary aberration – having been overlooked yesterday by Europe’s captain José María Olazábal for a “wildcard” pick – rather than constituting a permanent end to him playing in the biennial team match against the United States.
Harrington – en route by road from New York to Boston for this week’s Deutsche Bank Championship, the next leg of the FedEx Cup series – spoke by phone of his “disappointment” at not making Europe’s team for the defence of the trophy but admitted: “I don’t have any regrets. At the end of the day, you’ve got to make the team yourself. You can’t be relying on a pick . . . I will play plenty more (Ryder Cups), that won’t be an issue.”
Olazábal had phoned the Irishman – an ever-present on Ryder Cup teams since 1999, winning four along the way – on Sunday night to inform him of his omission. It didn’t come as any great surprise. “It was a polite phone call. I knew the result . . . I wished the team the best of luck, told him I’d support them all the way. My own opinion on it is, if you don’t make it into the team by right, you can’t second guess on being picked. I do think the other two guys will do very well. I’ve no problem with who he picked, that’s for sure,” added Harrington of the decision to go with Ian Poulter and Nicolas Colsaerts.
In theory, Olazábal’s team to defend the Ryder Cup at Medinah, outside Chicago, next month will be the strongest and most experienced ever. The European captain’s anticipated “wildcard” picks of Poulter and Colsaerts – the next two in line – and the comfort of overlooking Harrington, a thee-time Major champion and the most decorated of this generation of European players, means that all 12 of his team are ranked inside the top-35 on the official world rankings.
It’s a first for Europe to have so many players so highly ranked and to consist, in order, of the 12 players as they feature on the world rankings. It will be interesting to see if reality matches the theory, for there are also concerns about the form of a number of players, especially that of Martin Kaymer. The German has missed the cut in three of his last six tournaments and hasn’t managed a top-10 on tour since the Malaysian Open in April.
Olazábal’s affirmation yesterday of the duo was entirely expected: Poulter, for one, is a proven matchplay exponent who thrives in the cauldron that is the Ryder Cup; whilst Colsaerts, not only a “rookie” but set to become the first Belgian to feature in the match, has managed to combine phenomenally long drives with an ability to get the ball in the hole. He has moved from 1,305th in the world three years ago to a current ranking of 35th. He will be the only “rookie” on the team, of which there are eight survivors from the 2010 winners.
Harrington’s non-selection as a “wildcard” – and judging by Olazábal’s comments it would seem he was some way down the line – ends a continuous streak of participation by the Dubliner in the Ryder Cup that goes back to his debut in 1999.
Harrington’s best performance came in the 2004 match at Oakland Hills where he secured four points from a possible five but, since then, he has underperformed and only claimed half a point (from five matches) in 2006 at The K Club and half a point (from four matches) at Valhalla in 2008. He won two points from four at Celtic Manor in 2010, when a “wildcard” pick.
Although there were entirely legitimate reasons – excuses? – for his below-par performances in 2006 (home town pressures and years of build-up) and 2008 (tiredness after securing a third Major inside 13 months), the fact of the matter is that such a record wouldn’t have convinced Olazábal of any divine right for Harrington to be a compulsory member of the team headed to Chicago.
Harrington, who finished 19th on the qualifying table, said it was “evident” from the time of the USPGA Championship (in Kiawah Island earlier this month) that he was unlikely to get the nod from Olazábal.
“José made it very evident at the PGA, he cleared it up, not fully, but (enough). It was always going to be a distraction. I shot the course record on Thursday at Bethpage (last week) and it wasn’t even mentioned because 99 per cent of the press conference was the Ryder Cup.
“Nobody asked me a single shot I hit. It was all Ryder Cup, Ryder Cup. In that sense, it was a distraction. But it wasn’t like 2010 when Monty was picking and there was four people going for three spots. That was a serious distraction. At least here, it was clear I wasn’t getting a pick. It was definitely less of a distraction.”
He added: “It’s a hard ask to make the team, you need some big performances, you need to win some big points at the right time, which I never did during the year . . . all year, there were (potentially) a lot more points available if I had done x, y or z. if you don’t make the team, you look back. But I needed big points. I wasn’t in the (WGC) events. I knew that at the start of the year. It was very clear to me . . . I’m very disappointed not to make the team, but, on the other hand, I’m also very happy with my game and where I am going.”
Harrington – along with Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell – are in the field for this week’s Deutsche Bank Championship, limited to the top-100 players on the FedEx Cup rankings, which starts on Friday in Boston.
Meanwhile, Nick Watney staked a late claim for a place on the US team following his win at The Barclays.
The 31-year-old has endured a poor year on tour but put that behind him to register a three-shot victory after a closing 69.
US captain Davis Love III is due to name his 12 on September 4th.