European Ryder Cup Captain Padraig Harrington admits his eyes have already been drawn to the United States team standings ahead of September’s renewal, and he’s been impressed by what he’s seen.
The United States went into the last Ryder Cup at Le Golf National certainly looking the stronger side on paper only to be disposed of comfortably 17½-10½ by a European team proving togetherness can trump individual brilliance when it comes to the famous biennial contest. And with the likes of Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka in the winner’s enclosure already this year, Harrington is expecting a similar sized task on his hands, at least on paper, ahead of the sides lining out against each other at Whistling Straits.
“I can’t control it [Team USA] but I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t looking [at the Ryder Cup standings],” Harrington told Sky Sports News. “They’re incredibly strong on paper aren’t they, not just on paper but they are actually incredibly strong.
“They probably have more players in the top 10, top 20 in the world than they’ve ever had and they do seem to be on a nice bit of a purple patch at the moment. That’s what Europe always goes up against. We go up against a very strong US team and we have to figure a way of being a better team, of working in the team system of creating a group that’s better than the individuals – in terms of foursomes and fourball – and get the most out of it.
“If it was purely a bookmaker exercise and what you write down on paper then it would be extraordinary difficult to beat the US on their home soil, but hopefully we’ll work our magic and get the best out of our players in that given week.”
One man playing his way towards a place on Steve Stricker’s side is a resurgent Jordan Spieth who would’ve been one of the first names on a U.S. team sheet only four years ago.
“Jordan [Spieth] was obviously a huge star but not very many people generate the buzz that he has generated over the past couple of weeks,” Harrington added. “I’m not saying it was Tiger-esque, but Tiger moved the needle incredibly but Jordan Spieth actually did an impressive job.
“The buzz around him coming back shows just how big of a star he was when he was winning his majors and how much he is loved. I think he, as a person, is liked a lot, which really helps in terms of his golfing comeback. I think people want to see success for him again and he’s playing good golf, but the difficult for him is that he’s trying to live up to the past. Even if you knew what the past was, it’s still very hard to live up to those standards.
“It was nice to see that buzz and there was a genuine sense of willingness and joy that he was back playing good golf and I’ve got to say, a little bit like Tiger, people were tuning into see it. I’m curious to see how he reacts and how he plays, because it’s difficult when you’re on that comeback road. Your perception of what the past is always a lot better – it’s like you never hit a bad shot when you were at your best.”
As for three-time Major winner Harrington, his recent positive Covid test is set to mean an extended stay across the Atlantic, and even more golf for the Dubliner who has added two events to his schedule after this week’s Genesis.
“I can’t go home without a negative PCR, so I don’t have any option but to keep on going,” Harrington said. “Even if I wanted to stop, I have nowhere to go and kind of in limbo at the moment with that. Hopefully I’ll get a negative test the next few weeks, but it could be a couple of months before I get a negative test, which would allow me to travel back to Ireland.
“I’m actually entering more events, I’m entering both those opposite field events, so I’m going to play Puerto Rico next week and I’m going to play Puntacana I think is the other one. Yeah, adding tournaments rather than anything else because, as I said, I think that’s the only place I can go.”