Padraig Harrington is set to throw his hat in the ring for the 2020 Ryder Cup captaincy, insisting it would be “good timing for me” rather than running the risk of waiting for a possible crack at the job on Irish soil six years’ later.
It is believed that Adare Manor in County Limerick will emerge as a strong favourite to host the 2026 event – the next available slot on this side of the Atlantic after this year’s match is staged in France then Italy has the 2022 contest.
Billionaire J P McManus has ploughed close to £45 million into the venue, assigning leading American architect Tom Fazio to totally revamp a course that hosted the Irish Open in 2007 and 2008 and was officially opened last week as Harrington joined Rory McIlroy, Paul McGinley and Shane Lowry in an exhibition match.
“I would love to be a Ryder Cup captain down the road,” said Harrington in reply to being asked if his strong connection to McManus – the pair have played a lot of golf together over the years and joined forces twice to win the team event in the Dunhill Links – pointed to him being a contender for the post in eight years’ time if Adare Manor becomes the second Irish venue after The K Club.
“I see my game at the moment, that putting my name in the ring to be Ryder Cup captain is coming sooner rather than later as it does not look like I will be playing my way into this year’s team,” added the three-time major champion, who won the Honda Classic on the PGA Tour in 2015 before claiming the Portugal Masters on the European Tour the following season but has slipped to 208th in the world with little hope of making this year’s European team.
“But, as regards to 2026, it’s too late for me to wait. It would be too much of a risk. I would be somewhat out-of-touch with players by 2026 and there would be a lot of good players coming on the scene by 2026. There are good players who are playing now who will be looking for the captaincy in 2026. It would me creating a risk that I might not get the job.”
Harrington played on six Ryder Cup teams, including wins in 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2010. He was one of McGinley’s vice-captains for the 2014 victory at Gleneagles before filling the same post for Darren Clarke two years ago at Hazeltine, where Europe suffered their first defeat in four matches.
“I would love to be the captain in Ireland, but I don’t think I’ll be waiting around for 2026 as I think the risk would far outweigh the reward of waiting,” added Harrington, who will be 55 when that event comes around. “So, I think it is better for me to pitch for the captaincy or whatever you do like put your name in the ring before 2026 to reduce the fact there are a lot of good players following who will be looking for the Ryder Cup captaincy in 2026 and in eight years’ time. It would be good timing for me in 2020.”
That event will be staged at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, where Steve Stricker, who hails from that state, is a strong favourite to be the US captain. Harrington’s main rival for the European post is likely to be Lee Westwood, who made his tenth playing appearance at Hazeltine and has indicated in the past that he has his sights set on the 2020 post.
Harrington revealed his Ryder Cup plans during a teleconference to promote this year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie, where the Dubliner beat Sergio Garcia in a play-off in 2007 to claim the Claret Jug before successfully defending it 12 months later at Royal Birkdale. He then added a third major title soon afterwards in the US PGA Championship at Oakland Hills.
In 2007, Tiger Woods hit his opening shot into the Barry Burn before recovering to finish joint 12th. The three-time Open champion and 14-time major winner will be making his first appearance in the event this year since 2015 and Harrington believes Woods, having shown some promising form since returning to action late last year following back surgery before finishing joint 32nd in the Masters, can get in the mix in the game’s oldest major.
“Yes, yes,” he said to that possibility. ”He’s got the game and the experience. He looks like he’s in fine form. A lot of people would like to be in his shoes going into The Open.
“Obviously, a lot of pressure and attention was paid to him during the Masters, but by the time it comes to The Open, he’ll have had the US Open under his belt and it will be business as usual. I think he definitely could be a contender.
“Like all ball-strikers, I think he likes the golf course, so I think he’d be very comfortable on this one. He’ll be more under the radar mentally than he was at the Masters. He’ll be familiar with the attention again.”