Padraig Harrington’s hopes of succeeding Thomas Bjorn as Europe’s Ryder Cup captaincy at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin in 2020 have received a significant boost after the Irishman’s credentials were endorsed by the world No 2, Justin Rose.
Speaking as he prepared to host this week’s Sky Sports British Masters at Walton Heath in Surrey, Rose described Harrington as the “front-runner” for the post, sharing a view expressed at the weekend by Paul McGinley, the winning captain at Gleneagles in 2014.
Harrington, one of Bjorn’s vice captains in the recent resounding win over the Americans at Le Golf National in Paris, having also filled the same role on two previous occasions in the biennial event, is a strong favourite with the bookmakers to lead Europe’s trophy defence in two years’ time.
The three-time major winner said during last week’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship that he felt a “right fit” for this particular captaincy and the path to that post has been left clear by Lee Westwood saying in the wake of the victory in France that he is happy to wait until the 2022 match in Italy before throwing his hat into the ring.
“I would say Padraig for me would be the front-runner. If he doesn’t do it this time then I’m not sure...you’ve got to start fitting guys in,” said Rose, who has played in five Ryder Cups, in an interview with Sky Sports News. “[Lee] Westwood’s still capable of making a team next time around I believe, so is Padraig. Padraig’s been on the leaderboard a bunch this year, so I would say three-time major champion, clearly a European legend, for me Padraig is the front-runner and then you’ve got Westwood.
“When you find yourself trying to project out who the possible captains are for the next ten Ryder Cups it gets pretty interesting.”
The 2020 skipper will be selected by a panel comprising the last three captains – McGinley, Darren Clarke and Bjorn – as well as Keith Pelley, the European Tour chief executive, and David Howell, chairman of the European Tour player’s committee. “At this stage, Padraig is the only choice as there does not seem to be any other candidate for the role in town,” McGinley told golfbytourmiss.com as he followed his commentating stint at Le Golf National by returning to his day job in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
“So, it looks like Padraig will be the captain but then you never know as someone else may step forward. We will no doubt be making that decision just prior to Christmas.”
Steve Stricker is expected to be the American captain in his native Wisconsin, where he’ll need the US players to be pulling for each other better than appeared to be the case in their 17½-10½ hammering in the suburbs of Paris.
Straight after the match, Patrick Reed hit out at one of his team-mates, Jordan Spieth, before it was then claimed that Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson were involved in two separate spats – one on the flight over from Atlanta and the other at Europe’s post-event party.
Speaking at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship last Wednesday, Koepka denied the reports, but, according to American captain Jim Furyk, an “altercation” did indeed take place between the two friends and training partners.
“Whatever altercation started, or what happened, it was very brief,” said Furyk in an interview with Golf Channel. “They’re like brothers. Brothers may argue, brothers get into it. But they’re as close as they’ve ever been, and it really had no effect on either one of them.”
Koepka, meanwhile, has been voted as the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year as a reward for defending the US Open title at Shinnecock Hills in June then adding the US PGA Championship at Bellerive in August.
Koepka became the first player since Curtis Strange in 1989 to win back-to-back US Open in New Jersey before holding off a rejuvenated Tiger Woods to win a third major title in his last six starts in St Louis.
PGA Tour members who played in at least 15 FedEx Cup events during the 2017-18 season were eligible to vote for player of the year, with Koepka chosen ahead of world No 1 Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Open champion Francesco Molinari, Rose and Justin Thomas.
Writing on Twitter, Johnson was quick to praise Koepka, saying: “Congratulations.Great season bro...POY well deserved.”