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Padraig Harrington ready to grab Ryder Cup place

By Karl MacGinty

On the day in which Tiger Woods pledged his allegiance to the US Ryder Cup cause, Padraig Harrington revealed how this week's PGA Championship is for him, an all-or-nothing effort to win his place on the European team at Celtic Manor.

No question, all the really serious talk at Whistling Straits yesterday was about October's Ryder Cup, with World No 1 Woods settling recent arguments about his commitment to the event with a one word answer to the most pertinent question of the week.

Asked would he accept a wild card from US skipper Corey Pavin, Tiger's reply was an emphatic “Yes!”

So the ball is now in Pavin's court and even if Woods produced the worst performance of his professional career at Firestone on Sunday, it's impossible to imagine the American team captain leaving the World No 1 on the sidelines.

Especially if a touch of remedial work Woods has done at Whistling Straits this week with up-and-coming Canadian coach Sean Foley bears fruit and he produces a performance this week more in keeping with his status as a 14-times Major champion.

Harrington made his situation equally clear yesterday. The Dubliner will make one last-ditch effort to fight his way into Colin Montgomerie's team at Whistling Straits.

And should it not work out the way he intends, Harrington yesterday revealed he'd not change his upcoming tournament schedule to include the final European qualifying event at Gleneagles, relying instead on a pick from Monty.

This move would be strongly reminiscent of former European skipper Nick Faldo's decision to hand Ian Poulter a wild card for Valhalla after his fellow Englishman's hotly-controversial decision to skip the 2008 Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles.

Describing his current position in the Ryder Cup rankings as “very

precarious”, Harrington went on: “Nobody who doesn't qualify automatically deserves to be on the team. If you don't make it on merit, you are asking for a little bit of favour.

“I'm going to try and make the team by qualifying and that's my aim this week.”

Harrington is currently just 13,246 euros shy of qualifying by the European money list, though he believes his best chance of making the team will be through the world rankings. At present, he's 26 points outside of the all-important top-four in the world-rankings category. He'd scrape into the side with an outright fourth place next Sunday, though second or, of course, a repeat of his US PGA victory at Oakland Hills in 2008 would put Harrington's Ryder Cup place beyond doubt.

“To be honest, the goal is to get in on world ranking points because, obviously, that category closes in a week's time,” he explained.

“Even if I pass Miguel Angel Jimenez in the money on Sunday, he can jump past me in the last event (at Gleneagles).

“So the goal is to play well this week and sort it all out,” added Harrington, who believes his game is in good enough shape right now to render academic any further talk about his Ryder Cup prospects.

Despite his horrific display at last week's Bridgestone Invitational, Woods was encouraged enough by his performance in practice at Whistling Straits yesterday to match Harrington's Ryder Cup pledge with one of his own.

Revealing that Pavin had not yet delivered on his pledge to speak with him this week, Tiger said: “I haven't seen him and, hopefully, I won't be a pick.

“I would like to be able to play myself onto that team,” he continued.

Woods is 10th in the US Ryder Cup rankings and needs a top-five finish at the US PGA to become one of the automatic eight on Pavin's team when the qualifying process closes on Sunday evening.

Tiger confirmed that Foley cast an eye (and a video lens) over his swing as he played a practice round yesterday with two of the coach's star pupils, Hunter Mahan and Sean O'Hair, though he declined to say if the Canadian would be Hank Haney's long-term replacement.

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