Padraig Harrington is getting greyer and greyer by the Wentworth rounds as Shane Lowry reveals there has been no evening meals together this week as Harrington tosses-and-turns over the final make-up of his European Ryder Cup team.
After three days of chopping-and-changing, Harrington is looking at the rookie duo of both Bernd Wiesberger and Shane Lowry qualifying and Lee Westwood being unceremoniously bumped-out of the nine. That’s how it looks with a round to play of the BMW PGA Championship.
Let’s start with the leaders at the end of day three of the European Tour’s flagship event. Italian Francesco Laporta eagled his fourth hole in a round of 69 to move to the top of the board at 14-under as the 30-year-old seeks to savour a first Tour victory.
Laurie Canter posted a score of 70 and is in second place just a shot behind Laporta. Four players – including Adam Scott (70), American Billy Horschel (69), South African Christian Bezuidenhout (68) and 2014 European Ryder Cup hero Jamie Donaldson (60) share third place on 12-under par.
A shot behind and sharing seventh place on 11-under par is Wiesberger (67), Lowry (69) and American Sean Crocker (69).
If Lowry wins at Wentworth, he would naturally cement his place in the European side and certainly leave the very in-form Wiesberger to join him on the flight to Wisconsin, and at the expense of Westwood who would then need a ‘wildcard’ pick. Wiesberger only needs to finish where he is to be assured of automatic selection for the 2021 European Ryder Cup team and with Harrington announcing his three ‘wildcard’ picks at 7.30pm later Sunday night Irish time.
Lowry superbly birdied the last for a third day running while Donaldson, and hero of the 2014 winning European Ryder Cup team, finished birdie, birdie and eagle to, and this stage, has bumped Westwood out of the automatic nine qualifiers by just 2.34 points.
Lowry continued to impress Harrington as evident in a third day’s place that also included birdies at two and also for for three day’s running while he birdied the eighth for a second day but then he bogeyed the par-4 15th for a third day in succession. Apart from the 15th, Lowry’s dropped only one other shot and that was at the 5th on day one.
“I’m close, I’m very close,” said Lowry.
“It’s been a stressful week but I’m proud of myself and the way I’ve handled it and played some good golf and put myself in position. I’ve been in big, high-pressure situations before and I’m not going to back down or shy away. I’m going to go out tomorrow and work as hard as I can to achieve my career-long goal.”
Though in a change from the norm, Lowry revealed he’s not been out to dinner at all with Harrington this week. It meant missing out on Harrington’s favourite game among the Irish golfers and that’s ‘Credit Card Roulette’ and that’s all cards in the hat to see who pays for the meals. “Padraig’s been really quiet,” said Lowry.
“It’s the first tournament we’ve played together in years that we haven’t had dinner this week. “I imagine the refresh button on his phone is nearly broken at the minute looking at the team and the permutations and what’s happened. Yeah, I haven’t really spoken to him much this week.”
Wiesberger continues his charge into the automatic top-nine having gone so close in ‘sealing the deal’ at last fortnight’s European Masters and with the 35-year-old Vienna golfer set to have the hills alive with the sound of the Austrian national anthem on Sunday night.
And Wiesberger revealing Harrington has been a strong supporter in seeing him make the team “Yeah, been going back and forth a little with Pádraig the last couple weeks,” said Wiesberger.
“He sent me a message recently and while I’m not going to share what was said but obviously, he’s aware that there’s a lot of guys that are really eager to get on this team, me being one of them. “I know that he recognises my game is good enough for being part of this Ryder Cup, but I want to be able to show it on my scorecard again tomorrow.”
The 2021 European Team selection process has raised plenty of eyebrows over the complexity of delivering Harrington nine automatic qualifiers and with Graeme McDowell and Westwood throwing in the ‘twopence worth’.
Westwood has failed to break 70 over the three days and heads into the final round just outside the top-40, and on a course, he knows like the back of both hands.
“I’m not stressed about it,” Westwood said. “Trust me, golf does not stress me in the slightest any more. I don’t care enough about golf for it to stress me. I care about the Ryder Cup, it would be nice to be in it. But I don’t lose sleep about golf any more.”
Enough! All will be revealed at 7.30pm Sunday evening.