Harrington Succeeds Bjorn as Europe's Ryder Cup Captain
THE worst-kept secret in golf is out - three-time major winner Padraig Harrington has been named Europe’s captain for the 2020 Ryder Cup match at Whistling Straits.
Harrington has been the odds-on favourite to succeed Thomas Bjorn since Lee Westwood said in October that he would prefer to do the job in Rome in 2022 and described Harrington as the “better candidate” to lead the team at Whistling Straits. He has now been given the task of retaining the trophy won in emphatic fashion at Le Golf National in Paris.
Bjorn had suggested there was no need to rush into appointing his successor, but speaking during the Turkish Airlines Open at the end of October, Harrington was keen for the decision to be taken sooner rather than later.
“I keep getting asked and I’m trying to say it hasn’t been decided, but once you start talking about it eventually it starts looking like I think I am,” the 47-year-old Irishman said. “It puts me in an awkward position so I’d prefer the clarity. I understand what Thomas is saying in that it is a distraction, but being the captain in the States is different to being the captain in Europe. In Europe you’re heavily involved in the set up of the course and different things. It’s 18 months of your life.”
“I have played under many wonderful European captains since I made my debut 20 years ago and I would like to think that my captaincy will be a mix of all of them. I'm very much looking forward to taking on this role.”#TeamEurope #Harrington2020 pic.twitter.com/xTqTzOcKtC— Ryder Cup Europe (@RyderCupEurope) January 8, 2019
The official announcement was made by Guy Kinnings of the European Tour. “It is my absolute privilege to introduce to you the 2020 European Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington.”
The Irishman said he was thrilled and honoured to have been asked to do the job. “It’s not something I went into lightly,” he said. “It’s something I take on without a certain amount of trepidation. I want to be a help to the players and I want to keep things moving along in the right direction. We will probably have more rookies in the team and I have to give them an edge, to find a way to help them perform to their best. I have been a Ryder Cup player but this is something very different. The job will take a lot of my time and the key thing is to find a way to help the players perform to their very best.
“This has come as the right time and the right place in my career but I thought long and hard about this before accepting. It’s perhaps easier to be a Ryder Cup captain at home but it just feels right for me. It is daunting because you feel you want to add something. Hopefully I will pull it together and say the right things at the right times. I will take bits from all the captains I played for and worked with."
Harrington played in the Ryder Cup six times between 1999 and 2010, playing in four winning teams, and has been a vice-captain for the past three contests.
The captain is selected by a panel comprising the previous three captains - Bjorn, Darren Clarke and Paul McGinley - European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley and a member of the tour’s players committee.
Harrington will have some extra time to focus on his new duties. He revealed that he will not start his 2019 campaign until February after slipping on the stairs at home over Christmas and breaking a bone in his wrist.
He had planned to contest the European Tour events in Abu Dhabi and Dubai later this month, but is now targeting a first appearance of the season at the PGA Tour’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am from February 7-10.
“Over the Christmas period I discovered that I had broken a bone in my wrist,” he said. “I had slipped whilst walking down the stairs at home in mid-December. Whilst it continues to heal, I need to keep it in a splint a little while longer so, frustratingly, I will need to miss the first two planned events of my season in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
“However, I should be fully fit for the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-am on the PGA Tour in early February.”
Matt Wallace believes Harrington will work “tirelessly” to ensure Europe retain the Ryder Cup.
Wallace, who narrowly missed out on a wild card for Europe’s victorious team at Le Golf National despite enjoying three wins in 2018, said: “His career is one that any player would dream of having. He’s a brilliant player, a workaholic and someone I look up to in that sense, someone who gets everything out of his game and I’m sure everyone in the team would get on well with him. His Ryder Cup history speaks for itself and if he is the captain I would love to play under him.
“From team sports that I’ve played in I think he’d be a perfect captain, someone you could go and talk to but someone maybe who could give you a kick up the backside if he didn’t think you were performing.
“I’ve spent a bit of time with him over the past few months and even just practising with him, doing short game and putting stuff, he’s just someone who grinds and works tirelessly and I’m sure he’d be like that as a captain to try and get the best performance and ultimate goal of winning the Ryder Cup.”
Wallace’s caddie Dave McNeilly worked for Harrington for a number of years and the two players seemingly share that willingness to put in the long hours of practice required to succeed.
“After one of the rounds in Turkey in November it was just myself and Padraig on the putting green and Dave went up to Ronan [Flood, Harrington’s caddie] and said, ‘This is bad news for us because there’s floodlights about to come on!’“ Wallace joked.
“Dave was like, ‘Should I go and get the coffees?’ And it was just me and Padraig on the range for quite a while.”
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