It has never been wise to mistake the eccentric side of Pádraig Harrington for an overarching trait. Harrington is far extra luminous, sagacious and complicated than is apparent when he displays a quirky side. A career that has delivered three major championships among extra than 30 professional victories means Harrington is widely regarded as the Republic of Ireland’s greatest sportsman. This is no longer the domain of a clown.
There is now vulnerability. The 50-year-aged Harrington will lead Europe into next weekend’s Ryder Cup with the sense – and fear – that his reputation is on the line. “There are only a few issues that can affect my golf legacy,” he explains. “If I acquire another tournament, it doesn’t make great disagreement. It’s even questionable whether or no longer winning another major would. The Ryder Cup impacts my legacy. My ego is attached to my golf and there is no interrogate the Ryder Cup will have an build on that. Being a dropping captain may positively have an build on who I really feel I am. That’s something that would have to be dealt with.
“I want to make clear all individuals has a great trip the place these are the appropriate days of their lives. I may battle thru all those cliches. But ultimately I want to acquire. I can regulate being a fair captain without necessarily controlling the final consequence.”
This appears dispiriting. Yet there is good judgment, as ever, within the back of Harrington’s level. His standing pre-captaincy is loftier than Thomas Bjørn, Darren Clarke and Paul McGinley, his immediate predecessors. Harrington does have masses to lose. Discussion of Chop Faldo’s infamous on-route achievement is typically afforded the asterisk of disastrous 2008 Ryder Cup captaincy. Harrington played in that team.
“I’ll give Chop an out here because I may have fallen into this trap,” says Harrington. “He believed – and this suited me, by the way – that all individuals played golf like he did. He never wanted anybody or anything else when playing a Ryder Cup. He unbiased exact centered on getting his game ready. At that Ryder Cup, he assumed that’s how we all idea. Getting himself individually ready was finest for Chop. We have figured out since then that no longer all individuals plays that way. You can’t make the mistake of believing all individuals thinks like you.
“I didn’t want to take this job because it was my turn or my moral. There is a lot of strain on this for me because it’s a one and finished. I don’t have a few goes.
“A successful team is a successful captain. A dropping team is a failed captain. It is unfair but that’s the way it is. I do know that if we don’t acquire, of us will must save two and two collectively and accumulate five. If we acquire, they’ll must accumulate a reason why I was great.” And, to Harrington, he is within the underdog’s seat. “If this was race by pc, the US are winning.”
There have already been dissenting voices. That Harrington overpassed Justin Rose for a wildcard resulted in sniping the Irishman was prepared for. There had been brief discussions about a vice-captain’s feature for Rose, which was mutually made up our minds as unwise. “I knew and he knew that he may presumably be too shut to the action.” Rose will search for on from afar after Sergio García, Ian Poulter and Shane Lowry obtained Harrington’s call.
“It may presumably have been very easy to head with him, no question,” Harrington says. “It’s no longer like you can say Justin Rose isn’t as fair as the three picks. There was masses of reason to have him, I’d be gratified to have him within the team. It unbiased exact goes to display how solid I deem my picks are that I didn’t steal him.
“I went with what the stats had been saying lengthy-term, they had been all pushing for the three lads. Justin didn’t achieve satisfactory to totally change that. It shouldn’t be any puny on his golf or Ryder Cup file.” Peaceful, as Harrington properly knows, this will be a stick to whack him with if the US prevail.
So what roughly captain will Harrington be? Rabble rousing is no longer his vogue. Nor, he is adamant, is allowing a 12-man team to lose leer of who they individually are. “I have been a competitive player all my existence,” Harrington says. “I have finished properly. Now, I have to be careful how I approach across with my players; they want the sense that I mediate in them. They can’t walk within the market taking a search for at me as a player or an ex-player. That’s a line you have to work very hard on, to no longer be an intimidating presence. I want it to be: ‘Wow, here is this man who has finished what he has finished in golf who believes in me.’ And I really achieve mediate in them. I deem I have a fabulous team.”
Explain A, Rory McIlroy. More than seven years have now passed since McIlroy gained his last major but his captain treats the wait with a shrug. “That’s majors,” Harrington says. “If we race initiate air of them, his golf has been consistently brilliant. Nobody wants to head up against Rory McIlroy, playing properly, in match play, on this vogue in fact. There was nothing I asked all thru the last year that he wasn’t within the market as the first one doing. He is now no longer the younger kid. He’ll play a pivotal feature on and off the route.”
In 1999, Harrington was no longer even on nodding phrases with a lot of the US players he was because of face upon Ryder Cup debut. An come across with the late Payne Stewart at a pre-match feature altered Harrington’s perspective perpetually. “I knew he was a patriot and ultra competitive,” Harrington says. “He totally convinced me that he wanted to beat me by me playing properly. Up except then, I wouldn’t have cared how badly the various man played. I knew Payne wanted to beat me and acquire but he was really hoping we had the greatest match ever. That’s a hard place for a sportsman to head, to wish his playing partner all the appropriate.”
When posed about what the idea that of “Europe” actually means to him, Harrington takes a sip of tea and delivers a large grin. “I’d assume to have a political discussion with you over dinner. I’m a fair one for opinions and whatever side you take, I’ll take the various unbiased exact for the enjoyable of it.”
The extraordinary level follows. “We are playing for the European Tour,” says Harrington. “This is what Seve started. Back within the 80 s great players, the appropriate on this planet, played in Europe. Seve, Woosie, Langer, Lyle. Greg Norman played in Europe. They didn’t have the access to the US and the Ryder Cup was Seve’s way of saying: ‘We are as fair as the US Tour. We deserve better world ranking aspects, we deserve better access to occasions.’
“We tranquil have that explain indicate. We have a cramped little bit of a chip on our shoulder, it carries over from Seve’s days. There is no question the Presidents Cup is too familiar. For now, we are tranquil a Ryder Cup. Bernd Wiesberger is a European-based player and he played his way into the team. The morale that generates from the ground up in Europe is so important.”
Twenty years ago, Harrington walked into a locker room at Bellerive Nation Club amid murmurs of a astronomical incident in Original York. “I save my golf sneakers on and half an hour later, the world stopped. For days,” he recalls. The Ryder Cup was postponed except 2002. There are some sad parallels, then, to now; the match was shuffled back 12 months as the pandemic took maintain. Harrington’s wife and sons will be in Wisconsin but they represent his complete contingent.
“I was hoping – and unbiased exact displays my bear naivety – the Ryder Cup would mark the finish of Covid, that it’d be a mass celebration,” he adds. “Clearly it hasn’t long gone away.
“I’m the captain, this is my last race at a Ryder Cup and I can’t have all my chums and family there. That’s from a selfish level of ogle but my team are all the same. Once I was appointed, a part of it was, for the those that have supported me over 25 years of a pro career, approach to the Ryder Cup and celebrate with me. We can’t achieve it. I really feel for the players who are within the same boat. I wish it was a line within the sand to say: ‘This is the finish of Covid.’ We deem we are important but we aren’t really.” Which gained’t finish the eyes of the wearing world falling on Harrington next weekend. He appreciates unbiased exact how excessive the stakes are.