European team Captain Padraig Harrington admits he’s happy to see Shane Lowry in the Ryder Cup hot seat ahead of this week’s BMW PGA Championship, believing the rookie will have a huge impact on his team room should he make it to Whistling Straits.
With Norwegian rookie Victor Hovland already confirmed in Harrington’s line-up, Lowry is the only other first-timer amongst the current automatic nine qualifiers with Harrington’s full team set to be named on Sunday evening after play is completed in Wentworth.
“Our rookies have done well over the years and there’s no doubt you want rookies on the team,” Harrington said. “At the moment as the team sits, you have Victor and Shane being in the hot spot as also a rookie.
“Strange to call them both rookies but I do believe that if they were both on that team, they would bring that necessary atmosphere to the team, that fun that you need, the enthusiasm you need in the team room. So I’m happy to see them there and I’m happy to see other rookies if they do play their way in this week. It’s essential when it comes to The Ryder Cup.”
Regarding the Captain’s three picks, Harrington says, “I think right now, yeah, I would have three in mind”.
There’s been much speculation as to who will get the nod from the Captain in recent weeks with Ryder Cup veterans Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter looking like nailed down selections. Poulter is in Surrey this week where he’ll hope to continue his sound form of 2021 that saw ‘The Postman’ reach the FedEx Cup Playoffs while Garcia sits out this week’s European Tour assignment, seemingly content he’s done enough given he made it all the way to the Tour Championship at East Lake.
“I’ve spoken to Sergio quite a bit over the last couple of weeks, and look, if it was up to me, I definitely would have taken him being in the Tour Championship rather than here, and that’s really ultimately what it came down to,” said Harrington.
“He knows where he sits with it. He could have come here and played his way into the team and taken all doubt out of anything, but you know, he’s comfortable where he’s at. It’s a better decision for him in terms of resting up and getting ready for it if he’s in the team.”
Harrington claims there are at least six players in the running for three spots, but with two already taken, the third spot looks to have become a straight shootout between Justin Rose, Alex Noren, Henrik Stenson, Victor Perez and Robert MacIntyre. Remarkably, Rose’s stock has risen in recent weeks by not playing golf, with MacIntyre missing two straight cuts in the Korn Ferry finals, Stenson and Perez stumbling to the finish line last week in Italy and Noren needing a win to force his way into the reckoning.
— Shane Lowry (@ShaneLowryGolf) September 7, 2021
Lowry’s position of ninth place on the team table remains a vulnerable one but this week’s Wentworth venue is arguably his favourite stop on Tour, while even if he was usurped at the final hour by a bolter from the pack, the Clara man looks like a player who ticks every box in terms of Harrington’s idea of the ideal Captain’s pick:
“The picks are about picking three players who complement the nine guy who is qualify, and who match up well with those guys and bring balance to the team where it’s needed,” Harrington explained.
“So it’s a lot to do with who is in the team, and then and the golf course, determining who plays well on the golf course, who plays well under pressure, who plays well under stress, who plays well in the wind, who plays well on that style of golf course. We are not short of a bit of detail to figure out who should be our best players and picks.”
Given the links like conditions of Whistling Straits, Lowry’s consistency over the summer and his proven pedigree as a Major winner, should he somehow not make the team automatically, I’d rest assured that his name will be alongside that of Garcia and Poulter as Padraig’s picks. Still, let’s hope he can take that decision out of Harrington’s hands.