Confirmed: Padraig Harrington named European captain for 2020 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits
Padraig Harrington was today named Captain of the European Ryder Cup team in 2020. The worst-kept secret in golf was finally made public by the PGA at a press conference outside London at lunchtime.
The Dubliner will be an appropriate leader of the European side at the Whistling Straits course in Wisconsin at the end of September 2020. On the shores of Lake Michigan, the golf course is modelled on an Irish links set-up and the resort’s founder, Herb Kohler, proudly flies the Tricolour alongside the Stars and Stripes there every day.
It was only a question of ‘when’ Harrington would captain Europe as his status as a three-time Major champion assured him of the nod at some point in his career.
It means Irishmen have now captained three out of four European teams following Paul McGinley in 2014 and Darren Clarke in 2016. Perhaps that remarkable run will finally erase the anger of some older folk in Irish golf who still feel aggrieved that the first man ever to play in ten Ryder Cups, Christy O’Connor Snr, was repeatedly snubbed for the captaincy in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.
And that neither Des Smyth nor Eamonn Darcy got the nod for the Ryder Cup at the K Club a dozen years ago.
"It's perfect for Pádraig," said Smyth, himself a two-time Ryder Cup player.
"It's being played in America and he's played there a lot. He has been understudy many times and he has loads of experience.
"It's tough to win away, as the Americans know after Paris. But Pádraig will be ready, don't you worry. He is the thinking-man's pro."
Harrington himself has played in six Ryder Cups and has been a Vice-Captain in the last three, under McGinley, Clarke and last year’s winning leader in Paris, Thomas Bjorn of Denmark.
No doubt Harrington will bring his own thoughts and experiences to the role of leading 12 men who spend most of their professional lives trying beat each other. Moulding them into a team will not be easy, but men like Bernhard Langer (2004) and McGinley have shown the 47-year-old Harrington how to do it.
Having played Whistling Straits three times during in his career, Harrington also knows what the course is like. He won’t make the mistake of American captain Jim Furyk last year who ended up with an American team of players who drove the ball a long way, when what was needed at Le Golf National was players who drove the ball accurately.
Rory McIlroy gave his backing to Harrington shortly after Europe's crushing 17.5-10.5 points win at Le Golf National in Paris in September.
"I've always thought Padraig would be a good captain in the United States," McIlroy said.
"He's won a lot of golf tournaments over there, he's won a PGA Championship.
"I think the continuity in the European camp having all these vice-captains this year and preparing for captaincy down the road has been a huge foundation of why we've been so good.
"No matter who the captain is next time they'll be ready and I'm sure they will do a great job."
Harrington will also defuse an issue about McIlroy’s comments on the European Tour last week when the younger golfer made it clear he would not play on the European Tour this year until June.
McIlroy will be Europe’s leader on the course at Whistling Straits, Harrington will lead in the team-room and in the long build-up to September 2020.
Belfast Telegraph Digital