They did the trick for Paul McGinley at Gleneagles in 2014 and now Padraig Harrington is hoping the words of the legendary Bob Torrance can also inspire Europe to a Ryder Cup victory nearly 4,000 miles away at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.
As was the case for that match in Perthshire, one of Torrance’s favourite quotes will have pride of place in the European team room for next year’s encounter at Whistling Straits as Harrington joins compatriot McGinley in paying tribute to the man who coached both of them.
“Bob would say one simple thing, ‘happiest days of your life’,” Harrington told The Scotsman in reply to being asked what Torrance, who died in 2014, would say to him being the man tasked with trying to keep the trophy in Europe’s hands after a thumping seven-point win in France just over 12 months ago. “That will be on our team room wall as the Ryder Cup is a week to be enjoyed and I will be stressing that.”
The Irishman, who won three majors during his partnership with the Largs-based coaching guru, added: “There will be a few quotes from Bob put out there as there are a few quotes from Bob I think about every day I go out on the golf course.
“I will definitely be telling my players to make the most of the week and enjoy it. As you get further away from it, you realise that the guys you competed against – and they could have been your arch-enemy at one stage – are now your friend and acquaintance as you have gone through Ryder Cups together.”
Speaking at the “Year to Go” event for next September’s match on the banks of Lake Michigan, Harrington said he envisages his style of captaincy being more “practical” like Bernhard Langer at Oakland Hills in 2004 than “fuzzy” like either Sam Torrance or Ian Woosnam in 2001 and 2006 respectively at The Belfry and The K Club.
“I’m not going to change anything,” he said of Europe’s continuity in terms of the captaincy having helped deliver seven wins in the last nine matches. “I am going to try to copy the guys who have gone before me. Yes, there will be a bit of Padraig Harrington in there, this ain’t going to be a Padraig Harrington special. It will be a case of saying ‘right, let’s do what we’ve done well in the past as well as we can’. It won’t be a question of me trying to do anything new.”
As well as Torrance, his six captains in the transatlantic tussle also included Colin Montgomerie, who handed him a wild card at Celtic Manor in 2010. “Sam brought himself to the job,” said Harrington. “He brought passion. He made you believe in the team. He made you believe in yourself. He was excellent in that role. Monty was different. He changed things, to be honest. He was quite impressive in the team room in terms of what he said whereas Sam was impressive in terms of what he did.
“Monty – and this was him all over – after the change to play everyone on the Saturday due to the bad weather at Celtic Manor, when he came back from that decision being made, and said ‘This is great, I think you should do this as I think we are better than them’. He had a curve ball thrown at him and he dealt with it well. He said it suited us. He pulled everything together. He was very good.”
As the qualifying battle got underway in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth a fortnight ago, Harrington revealed he’d drawn up a list of up-and-coming players he expects to be in the mix and, at the same time, said he’d be ‘very happy’ if Bob MacIntyre played his way into the team.
“It is entertaining being paired with the young guys as I can see they are nervous playing with me,” said the 48-year-old Dubliner. “I said to Matt Fitzpatrick, who has played in a Ryder Cup, you are a little scared of me and he said, ‘yeah’, I obviously don’t want it to be like that for the Ryder Cup, but I am genuinely enjoying being out there on the course with these guys.
“When you get to my age, you lose contact with the younger element of the tour. I am getting to know them again and that is great. I really want some rookies in my team to bring that enthusiasm and that atmosphere to the team. They give a focus to the senior players. A rookie can give a senior player purpose, which is tremendous.”
As with everything he does, Harrington is putting his heart and soul into the captaincy. “It is probably the best job in the world if you took it on and did nothing,” he said. “If you are trying, though, it is tough. You get one go to get it right. It’s one and done.”