European Captain Padraig Harrington believes his Ryder Cup rookies will have a huge part to play in helping Team Europe retain the cup in Whistling Straits and without tempting fate, he expects Shane Lowry to be one of them.
Harrington was speaking to RTE’s Greg Allen where he discussed the current make-up of his team, his thoughts on his three wildcard picks and the role the rookies have in galvanising a Ryder Cup team in any given year.
“I’m pretty settled today [on my picks],” Harrington said, widely expected to trust experience for an away assignment and call upon Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose.
“I think it’d be an easy job to do it today, but three weeks is a long time – three tournaments, and especially with the last tournament being such a significant event, the BMW PGA.
“Viktor is 100% in the team, he can’t be passed. Shane is in the last spot but playing very well. It’d be a big shock if he hasn’t done enough at this stage. You need your rookies. You need the enthusiasm they bring. Both of them are very good around others – they play with others.
“The experienced players get a kick out of leading a foursomes or four-ball match with a rookie, leading them out and showing them the ropes.”
With Lowry set to collect a bundle of points at this week’s BMW Championship, the penultimate event of the PGA Tour season, his place is looking increasingly assured, meaning the only remaining places of doubt are those of the captain’s picks, though Harrington has again suggested that it would be impossible to overlook Europe’s tried and tested.
“The idea of picks is to pick people who are complementary to the nine guys who are qualified,” he added. “Both Ian Poulter and Sergio have delivered so many times in that respect, in terms of helping to motivate the team and lead on the course and off the course.
“Both of them have proved themselves enormously when it comes to the Ryder Cup and it would be incredibly hard not to see them there, but hey, the picks happen in a few weeks’ time. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next three weeks.”
The team table as it stands reads, Jon Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Rory McIlroy, Viktor Hovland, Paul Casey, Matt Fitzpatrick, Lee Westwood and Shane Lowry plus three picks, and although Harrington’s hand is looking strong, he’s banking on Rory McIlroy finding form to join Jon Rahm as his team linchpins in Wisconsin.
“Jon Rahm is playing brilliant, fantastic golf. He’s such a passionate guy. He really wants to get out there and lead on the golf course, but I’ve been really heartened and impressed by Rory this year, how much he’s taken to a leadership role in the Ryder Cup,” Harrington added.
“He has really taken it to heart that he’s more of a leader now, people look to him. He’s taken that on board and done a great job for me all year in taking that responsibility. I really do believe he’ll carry it through the Ryder Cup. He’s not a young guy anymore, he’s an experienced player.”