The year is 2020 and European Ryder Cup Captain, Padraig Harrington has gathered his most trusted advisors around the kitchen table to help finalise his wild card picks for Whistling Straits.
“Postman Poulter, he always delivers,” insists Vice-Captain, Robert Karlsson to widespread nods of approval.
“If it can’t be GMac, I nominate Stenson,” pipes up Graeme McDowell. “The ice man’s cooler than a beer at the 19th in Pebble.”
“Here, here,” the table cheers as Captain Harrington swirls his teabag in silence, seemingly hypnotised by a whirlpool of regret.
“Just one more place then,” he says, letting out a sigh of discomfort as an awkwardness descends over breakfast. Karlsson and McDowell jump up to use the toilet in unison. Luke Donald pretends he’s dropped his black pudding and hides under the table while Harrington wanders to the kettle to make himself another cuppa; his first mug full but lying abandoned on his notepad.
The only man left sitting is Paul McGinley, who picks up Padraig’s cup and yells, “you’ve a full one here already, Paddy,” but as he goes to put the mug back down on the improvised coaster, he spots a ring of spilled tea surrounding two words in capital letters: SHANE LOWRY.
To Harrington’s dismay, the 2019 Open Champion has fallen short of an automatic place on the team. The Clara golfer is a proven pressure player, a Major champion who thrives in the wind that Chicago will bring, but there’s a problem; Lowry’s great friendship with the Captain.
Much more than a compatriot, the pair tour together, dine together, chip balls pre-tournament hand-in-hand. Selecting Lowry as his third pick would be like the manager of a football team picking his son to start the final after missing a couple of training sessions. It would be the great case of nepotism for our times.
“What about Shane?” McGinley tentatively suggests before stuffing his face with a loaf of bread.
“I told him not to make this difficult,” Harrington whispers before pouring his tea down the sink and starting all over.
Yes, it’s under a year to go until the most gripping competition in golf, the Ryder Cup returns to our screens and even at this early stage, talk has turned to the make-up of Padraig Harrington’s European side ahead of their clash with America on US soil. The skipper’s made no secret of the fact that he wants Ireland’s latest Major champion, Shane Lowry on his plane to Wisconsin and should the Offaly man continue to build on his form of 2019, his wish should be Lowry’s command.
“I forgot Shane was a rookie!” Harrington admitted when asked about potential players on his team. “You don’t think of him like that. He’s in a tremendous position. He’s very high up in the percentage chance of making the team. I really want him in the team. Whistling Straits is a big windy golf course and Shane is very good on big windy golf courses.
“It is a year away but I fully expect Shane to not give me any problems. He’s ideally set for this golf course.”
Meanwhile, the Dubliner would’ve been relieved to learn that Lowry is leaving nothing to chance in his bid to secure his playing ticket to the biennial contest.
“We’ve already done my schedule for the next 12 months and it’s solely focussed around trying to make the Ryder Cup team,” Lowry revealed.
“Even though Padraig Harrington is the captain of the European side, I’m not expecting any favours. Padraig is a good friend and I’ve learned a lot from him over the years but I think I’ll struggle to get a Captain’s pick. I really do.
“So, that’s my goal for the year and it’s nice to have something long term like that so I can just get on with the bad days and the good days and see where it leaves me in the end.”
If all goes to plan, the end should see Shane Lowry lining out as part of Padraig Harrington’s European team as another chapter in Ireland’s rich history of Ryder Cup success is written for the ages. However, if the unthinkable was to happen and Lowry failed to make the team, the pressure would fall on the Captain’s head to either place his faith in Shane’s ability, or avoid accusations of favouritism and overlook his friend. What would you do?
I for one would stick the kettle back on.