Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

Ryder Cup: Padraig Harrington turns on the style

Graeme McDowell of Europe tees off during a practice round prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 28, 2010 in Newport, Wales
Rory McIlroy of Europe tees off during a practice round prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 28, 2010 in Newport, Wales
Europe's Martin Kaymer during a practice round at Celtic Manor, Newport
USA's Phil Mickelson during his practice round at Celtic Manor, Newport
USA's Rickie Fowler during his practice round at Celtic Manor, Newport
USA's Tiger Woods during his practice round at Celtic Manor, Newport
A young golf fan reaches out to Tiger Woods as he signs autographs during his practice round at Celtic Manor, Newport
USA's Tiger Woods during a press conference at Celtic Manor, Newport
USA's Tiger Woods during a press conference at Celtic Manor, Newport
USA's Zach Johnson during his practice round at Celtic Manor, Newport. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday September 28, 2010
(L-R) Matt Kuchar, Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, Stewart Cink, Jeff Overton, Rickie Fowler, Zach Johnson, Hunter Mahan, Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker, Phil Mickelson and Team Captain Corey Pavin pose with the trophy during the USA Team Photocall prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 28, 2010 in Newport, Wales
(L-R) Rickie Fowler, Team Captain Corey Pavin, Zach Johnson and Hunter Mahan of the USA pose with the trophy and the American flag during the USA Team Photocall prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 28, 2010 in Newport, Wales
Tiger Woods of the USA tees off during a practice round prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 28, 2010 in Newport, Wales
USA Team Captain Corey Pavin speaks with the media after a practice round prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 28, 2010 in Newport, Wales
Zach Johnson of the USA hits a tee shot during a practice round prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 28, 2010 in Newport, Wales
Jim Furyk of the USA hits a bunker shot during a practice round prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 28, 2010 in Newport, Wales
Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk of the USA pose with their team mates during the USA Team Photocall prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 28, 2010 in Newport, Wales
Europe Team Captain Colin Montgomerie answers questions from the media at a press conference following a practice round prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 28, 2010 in Newport, Wales
Europe's Ryder Cup team captain answers questions from the media
(L-R) Stewart Cink, Jeff Overton, Rickie Fowler, Team Captain Corey Pavin, Zach Johnson and Hunter Mahan of the USA pose with the trophy and the American flag during the USA Team Photocall prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 28, 2010 in Newport, Wales
(L-R) Matt Kuchar, Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, Stewart Cink, Jeff Overton, Rickie Fowler, Zach Johnson, Hunter Mahan, Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker, Phil Mickelson and Team Captain Corey Pavin pose with the trophy during the USA Team Photocall prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 28, 2010 in Newport, Wales
Graeme McDowell of the Europe Team answers questions from the media at a press conference following a practice round prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 28, 2010 in Newport, Wales
Padraig Harrington of Team Europe chats with his coach Bob Torrance during a practice round prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 28, 2010 in Newport, Wales
USA and European captain's wives Gaynor Montgomerie (L) and Lisa Pavin pose with the winning designer Michelle McGrath after the University of Wales Fashion Show at the Wales Millenium Centre during the Ladies Outing to Cardiff Bay prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 28, 2010
2010 Ryder Cup Practice Day 28/9/2010 European vice captains Darren Clarke and Thomas Bjorn joke around on the 17th tee box
2010 Ryder Cup Practice Day 28/9/2010 Europe's Graeme McDowell on the 18th green
European playing partners Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy walk down the 14th fairway
USA's Tiger Woods during his practice round at Celtic Manor, Newport

Ian Poulter revealed he had to go straight to the cash machine after he and Irish Open champion Ross Fisher were cleaned out by the Ryder Cup practice opening day's most dynamic duo, Padraig Harrington and Luke Donald.

Harrington had two eagles and lipped-out from 40 feet for another, while Donald landed four birdies as two of European captain Colin Montgomerie's wild cards walked away with the bragging rights and nearly £400 in cash.

On a relatively profitable day for the Irish, Graeme McDowell, winner of the Welsh Open here in June, made the most of his local knowledge as he and Rory McIlroy took £150 from the Molinari brothers, Edoardo and Francesco.

Yet Poulter and the rest of Harrington's Ryder Cup teammates were delighted as the 39-year-old Dubliner proved his return to hot scoring form with last Sunday's 64 in the final round of the Vivendi Cup was no flash in the pan.

“Paddy played exceptionally well this morning, which is great for the team but bad for my pocket,” Poulter quipped, adding: “he drove it straight and he drove it long and he put it in position for 18 holes today.

Having received a hotly-controversial captain's pick from Sir Nick Faldo for the last Ryder Cup in Valhalla, Poulter knows how it can sharpen a player's hunger to impress.

“I know what it did for me last time round and if it revs up Padraig this time round, he's going to be a serious danger man for Europe,” said Poulter.

“It certainly seems to have done the trick.”

Montgomerie expressed his delight at Harrington's form and took the opportunity to slam criticism of his decision to invite the Irishman to play in his sixth Ryder Cup this week, despite recent poor form and his failure to win on Tour in two years.

“Well, I feel the criticism was very unjustified, to be honest,” the European captain insisted.

“I know what Padraig can do and why he was picked. I've rarely seen anyone as pumped-up as he was out there today — he was like a rookie, he was so enthused.

“He played the best golf of our team out there,” Mongomerie added.

“He's a world player. He's won three Major Championships and the stature of the guy is second to none on our team.

“There's reasons why Padraig Harrington was picked and judge me about that selection on October 4, not September 28.”

Monty was equally pleased with the form yesterday of World No 3 Lee Westwood, who shares equal ranking with Harrington as one of the European captain's team leaders at Celtic Manor.

Six-times ryder Cup veteran Westwood has not played a tournament since August 6 because of a torn calf muscle but he still played some eye-catching golf.

“For Lee to start off so confidently with three birdies in the first four holes is good for his self esteem.

“He's not played in six or seven weeks and he starts ripping the ball like he is, so I'm very excited for Lee Westwood this week.”

So far, Montgomerie has beaten his opposite number, Corey Pavin, hands down in the verbal skirmishing at Celtic Manor. While the home captain has been relaxed, amusing and informative on his two visits to the media centre, the US skipper has gone way too far in his efforts to be anodyne.

One hopes his players won't perform as tentatively when the action starts for real on Friday.

Asked if he thought McDowell and McIlroy would form as potent a partnership at The Ryder Cup as they had for Great Britain and Ireland captain Paul McGinley during last year's Vivendi Trophy defeat of Continental Europe, Monty replied: “Let's hope they are formidable.

“Their partnership is untried in Ryder Cup play but they are both very confident individuals and I think that's a huge plus when it comes to playing to together on this stage.

“They each have confidence in their own ability and their partner's ability.”

Montgomerie has revealed that the Ulster duo and the magnificent Molinaris will play together at some stage at Celtic Manor and many pundits nominate US Open Champion McDowell and gifted Ryder Cup rookie McIlroy as favourites to lead the European assault in Friday morning's fourballs.

Asked who would fire off the first tee shot in that event, McIlroy insisted he'd defer to McDowell, saying: “age before beauty and all of that.”

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