Big incentive for Harrington

IT barely seems 15 years ago that a young Padraig Harrington, in only his second full season as a professional, teamed up with Paul McGinley at Kiawah Island and gave Ireland their first victory in golf’s World Cup since 1958.

But now Harrington has returned to the South Carolina course as a three-time major winner and as a 40-year-old almost certainly in need of something special if next month is to see him win a seventh Ryder Cup cap.

The Dubliner plays the first two rounds of the USPGA Championship with two other former winners of the title, Phil Mickelson and American Ryder Cup captain Davis Love. But while Mickelson is keen to hold on to what he has – the eighth and last automatic cup spot in this the last week of their race – Harrington has ground to make up. Lots of it.

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Only another victory in the final major of the season would be sure to elevate Harrington into a position to qualify for Jose Maria Olazabal’s side. His only other route into the team would be as a wild card at the end of the month. He got one from Colin Montgomerie two years ago but Olazabal, with whom Harrington was involved in controversy over the repairing of a pitch mark at the 2003 Seve Trophy in Spain, has only two – one fewer than Montgomerie – to hand out.

Asked if he was able to put the Ryder Cup to one side this week and just focus on the major, he said: “You know, I have to. I’m delighted I’m playing so well tee to green. The game’s been excellent, well under control – that’s what I’ve got to concentrate on. I can’t concentrate on something I haven’t control over. I’ve just got to keep playing my golf and be content that I’m playing well.”