Pádraig Harrington says US team will feel pressure of home Ryder Cup

Captain says he has agreed to follow Thomas Bjørn and get a tattoo if Europe win

European team members Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, captain Pádraig Harrington, Rory McIlroy and Paul Casey pose wearing cheese heads before a practice round at the Ryder Cup. Photo: Erik S. Lesser/EPA

European team members Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, captain Pádraig Harrington, Rory McIlroy and Paul Casey pose wearing cheese heads before a practice round at the Ryder Cup. Photo: Erik S. Lesser/EPA

 

Pádraig Harrington, Europe’s captain, has claimed the US team will need to deal with the “pressure and stress” of being heavy favourites to reclaim the Ryder Cup in front of a partisan crowd.

Travel restrictions mean European supporters are virtually absent from Whistling Straits this week, save those who are based in the United States. The lack of a familiar gallery split has only added to the widespread sense that the hosts should prevail.

Harrington, though, suggested spectator backing could have a different impact on Steve Stricker’s team which includes six Ryder Cup rookies.

“It is an interesting one, there’s no doubt,” said Harrington. “Most of the focus for us coming in is the fact that it is going to be 90/10, 80/20 [supporter split]. As I’ve said all along, Europe would rather play in front of 40,000 Americans than zero fans. But maybe when we got here it has changed a little bit. You can see that there’s expectation and pressure from the fans going the other way. They have a new strategy.

“So there’s no doubt, the home captain has to deal with pressure and stress. But it’s not like we don’t have to deal with it, too. There’s a little bit added, no doubt about it. I suppose we just have to wait and see.”

Victory for Europe would come at a physical cost to Harrington. The Irishman admitted he has guaranteed his 12 players he will get a tattoo marking any such success. Thomas Bjørn did likewise before Europe trounced the US in Paris three years ago, and duly delivered on his promise.

“I am delighted that that’s all they ask for, I’d have given up a lot more,” said Harrington with a smile. “So yes, I will be getting a tattoo. If my team produce a winning week, I will be getting a tattoo to mark the occasion, and I’m very comfortable that they only asked that much of me because I would have given more.

“I think it’s an unwritten rule, so it has come up in conversation. Maybe they [the players] didn’t ask. Maybe I offered and they felt that was enough. But definitely, it’s a given now in Europe. Captain has to get a tattoo. I don’t have any other tattoos, so it would be a new experience for me. Where on the body? I don’t know.”

Europe’s team donned distinctive “cheese head” hats donated by the NFL’s Green Bay Packers before practice on Wednesday. “Obviously business starts on Friday but at the moment the players are enjoying it and having a good time of it,” Harrington said.

Harrington played down any sense that cold, windy conditions in Wisconsin could play further into his European hands. Albeit the forecast is ever-changing, a strong breeze is currently predicted for each of the competition days.

“My players don’t need that, they’re good enough,” Harrington said. “They’re great ball strikers. We’re not looking for extreme windy conditions, difficult conditions, tricky conditions. We don’t mind a good solid test.

“We’re all happy that the temperature is to go up on Friday. We don’t have a problem with that. We’re relying on ourselves, not relying on outside agencies and the conditions. Maybe there is a little bit of an advantage for us if it does go that way, but as I’ve always said, we really have probably our best team ever of ball strikers. We’re not going to be hiding any players or anything like that. We are not relying on conditions to give us the edge.” – Guardian

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