European Ryder Cup captain, Padraid Harrington insists there will be no ‘wiggle room’ to push back the already rescheduled 2021 Ryder Cup
The on-going worldwide pandemic saw the world’s third largest sporting event moved back a year to accommodate the atmosphere of fans lining the host Whistling Straits course. And now with some nine months remaining, Harrington, like all sports fans, is hopeful the Ryder Cup will go ahead later this year as replanned.
“I’m certainly no scientist, you just can’t predict what it’s going to be like in September . . . I think the only thing I can do as a Ryder Cup captain is prepare myself and my team as best as I can with the idea that it’s full steam ahead,” said Harrington.
“The European Tour, Ryder Cup and the PGA of America will do the planning for all contingencies. But, as captain, it’s above my pay grade and it’s just about getting my team ready. There’s no doubt there’s going to be a Ryder Cup this year . . . within all reason, the Ryder Cup will be played and I suspect because of it being later in the year, being after the summer, that it could be close to normal in some sense . . . I don’t believe there is wiggle room for pushing this back.
“So, it’s full steam ahead. I suppose I could have said the same thing this time last year; certainly March last time, we were planning to go full steam ahead and deal with all contingencies as they came along. We are in the same boat now, but I’m an optimist, and I believe we will be good to go in a capacity for sure that the players will want to be there and enjoy it.”
After a six-month ‘freezing’ of the points race, the European Team qualifying process restarted last week at the Abu Dhabi with Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy the leading four Europeans. And the decision by Harrington to award more points to the remaining events of the 2021 qualifying process could see the a number of younger players making their Ryder Cup debut including the likes of Frenchman Victor Perez, lying a lofty fifth on the points table.
“As regards to age of players, yeah, an extra year is going to be a year too far for some of the older guys,” said Harrington. “There is a little bit of a changing of the guard. I am looking forward to seeing a few rookies come through in the next eight months and set themselves out as the new stars.
“You’ve got to give the rookies a chance to qualify. You’ve got to give them a fair crack of the whip. Everybody who is on the European Tour who is eligible feels like, ‘hey, I have a chance of making this team’. And that’s very important for the morale of the team; that everybody feels they are part of it, and giving me six picks would have given me a hell of a headache. I just don’t think it would help the morale of the team.”
Harrington, not unlike any other former captain, has the European Tour’s support in who he wishes to play alongside week-in and week-out, and that includes the placement of his two appointed vice-captains in Robert Karlsson and former World No. 1 Luke Donald.
“Myself and the vice-captains will have a role in, yeah, every European Tour event, I have a role and my vice captains in suggesting some options, even the ones I’m not at, trying to build up partnerships during the year,” said Harrington.
“You know, later on in the year could be a situation of playing young guys who are potentially going to make it with some of the senior players who are going to be on the team. At the moment, it’s more myself and Robert just getting to meet some of the younger guys that we wouldn’t have been — I played with Bob MacIntyre last week, guys like that, Victor Perez, just building a relationship with them.
“I’m not there to judge them. That’s the one thing I want to set out straight. Players play golf their own way and they deliver their own scores, and if they perform and make the team, they deserve to be there. It’s not for me to decide that, you know, a guy who is not a great ball-striker, if he shoots 69, he’s better than the guy who is a great ball-striker and shoots 70. The score is the judge. I’m just there to meet them and just build a relationship.
“I really don’t like this idea of that I’m out there looking at them and analysing them, because, look, their score determines how good a player they are. Doesn’t matter what I think about how they get it done. It’s the score. And we always have to get away from that sort of side of things. I will look at the stats, and you do, when it comes to picks, you’re wondering is a player suited for foursomes or fourball. But when I’m playing with them and what we’re looking at, it’s just relationships. It’s just about building up the familiarity so that if they do make the team, if they are in the team, that they are comfortable to be able to come and say something to me if they need to.”