Does Harrington’s modest Ryder Cup record warrant a wildcard pick?

Ronan MacNamara

Padraig Harrington and Luke Donald Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Nobody can live forever, but if anyone has a chance it’s Pádraig Harrington.

Ireland’s greatest sportsman could be forgiven for riding off into the sunset for the comfort of senior tour life but his enthusiasm and determination still burns as bright as ever with a seventh Ryder Cup appearance still in his sights.

Despite boasting five Ryder Cup victories on his CV, Harrington’s record in the biennial contest is modest at best.


Out of 25 matches across his six European appearances Harrington has won just nine, lost thirteen and halved three taking his tally to 10.5 points from a possible 25 on offer.

Hardly glowing form that an unlikely wildcard candidate usually has to rely on in such circumstances.

The three-time major champion last represented Europe in the 2010 contest in Celtic Manor when he was indeed a controversial wildcard pick by then captain Colin Montgomerie.

Just two years after winning his third major title at the 2008 PGA Championship, Harrington had been struggling with poor form and swing tinkering leading to a run of missed cuts that had dented his reputation as the iron man of European golf and, more significantly, fuelled doubts about his worth as a wild-card pick on Montgomerie’s team.

After losing his day one four ball alongside fellow wildcard Luke Donald, 2010 rookie Ross Fisher carried Harrington to two victories in Saturday’s second session before the Irishman suffered a singles defeat to Zach Johnson on Sunday.

Thirteen years on and it’s Johnson captaining a USA side who look like they could embark on a golden Ryder Cup period while Harrington, who will be 52 when September’s Rome date arrives, is looking to become the first former captain since Arnold Palmer in 1973 to make a playing appearance.

Harrington played three matches on debut in 1999 including winning his final day singles contest against Mark O’Meara while picking up a half point from his two foursomes matches alongside Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez. As debuts go, that was very good.

Despite being part of a dominant period for Europe in the Ryder Cup, on a personal level Harrington’s Ryder Cup performances have been mixed since.

A regular from 2002 to 2010, Harrington suffered two defeats on the opening day of the 2002 edition at The Belfry before he bounced back to claim a Saturday afternoon four ball point alongside Montgomerie over Phil Mickelson and David Toms.

An emphatic 5&4 singles triumph over Mark Calcavecchia on Sunday paved the way for fellow countryman Paul McGinley to sink the winning putt as Europe earned a 15.5-12.5 success.

The former world number three looked to have cracked the Ryder Cup code in 2004 when he tasted defeat just once from his five matches as USA suffered their largest margin of defeat on home soil.

Europe might have romped to victory in the 2006 contest at the K Club but Harrington’s performances matched the miserable weather as he failed to register a point for the blue and gold, picking up just a half point from his five matches.

In 2008 at Valhalla USA ended a run of three successive European wins with Harrington only able to muster a half point from his four matches.

Still, should Harrington earn a captains pick from Luke Donald he would become the oldest Ryder Cup player ever, beating Raymond Floyd’s (51) record in 1993.

The 15-time DP World Tour winner has shown signs of life on the main tours, making all three cuts in the major championships while posting a top-10 at the Valero Texas Open.

One thing he can’t be accused of is lacking belief and he is committing to a European schedule until D-Day in order to force his way into Donald’s mind for Rome next month.

“Oh yeah [I need to win]. I don’t know. No, you can turn up here and if you nearly won this week, you’ve got to think it would push yourself in there. I’m not in his pick at the moment. I’d have to do something to change his mind when it comes to the the Ryder Cup.

“I considered changing the schedule based on Ryder Cup but then if I wasn’t in contention I wasn’t going to change my schedule. I’m now changing my schedule because I’m playing well enough to win. So that’s why I’m changing my schedule.

“As regards Ryder Cup, the likelihood is if I’m going to win I’m probably going to win a bit too late for the Ryder Cup so that’s just the way it is.”

Europe changed their qualifying criteria for this year’s contest with six automatic picks and six captain’s picks.

At present it looks as if Donald’s side is going to be comprised of Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland, Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Shane Lowry and Justin Rose. Such an experienced core gives Donald some wiggle room over some of his wildcard selections.

Given that Sepp Straka and Robert MacIntyre/Adrian Meronk look very likely to take up two more spots it does close the window slightly on Harrington’s chances given that depth has emerged over the last six weeks from a European perspective.

However, six picks do give Donald the opportunity to be bold and Harrington’s inclusion could be a leveller should Donald opt for an X-Factor pick in Rasmus Hojgaard or Ludvig Aberg who is fresh out of college but has caught the eye.

Harrington’s experience would complement a degree of youthful fearlessness in Rome in a four ball match while the unknown quantity of Hojgaard and Aberg could shock the Americans.

While Harrington has impressed in his main tour starts, he hasn’t quite been able to string four rounds together which could prove his downfall in the coming weeks but alternatively, wouldn’t be a factor in the Ryder Cup. He need only play once over the first two days in an aforementioned left field pairing.

Time is running out on Harrington’s unlikely Ryder Cup chances but there is certainly life in the old dog yet and he remains part of a catalogue of options that have emerged for Europe over the last six months.


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