It seems outrageous, but there is a strong belief a festering nine-year-old spat with the present European Ryder Cup captain could cost Pádraig Harrington one of Jose-Maria Olazabal’s two ‘wild card’ picks on the European team to face the Americans at Medinah on September 28-30.
Olazabal took many people by surprise last weekend when he suggested Harrington needed to do “something extraordinary” in the PGA Championship to merit consideration.
Harrington was clearly taken aback by the tone of the Spaniard’s remarks, while Colin Montgomerie, the successful European skipper two years ago, declared the two places rested between Harrington, Sergio Garcia and Nicolas Colsaerts.
Harrington’s share of 19th at Kiawah Island obviously fell well short of “something extraordinary” but he clearly believes Olazabal has already made up his mind on who he will select as his wild cards ahead of the deadline on August 26.
Even if he did give Garcia the nod, he could still turn to the Dubliner — although Harrington remains doubtful. that will happen. “Do you think that would change his mind?” Harrington snapped when asked if he should have entered this week’s Wyndham Championship on the PGA Tour.
The two men are very much at odds, leaving many to wonder if a particularly unpleasant row during a Seve Trophy match in Spain in November 2003 could in any way be clouding Olazabal’s judgement when it comes to making his Ryder Cup selection.
In a crucial singles on that fateful day at El Saler, Harrington wanted the referee to rule whether Olazabal was allowed to repair two pitch marks on the line of his eight-foot putt on the third green. While Harrington looked around for the referee to intervene, Olazabal went ahead anyway and did his repair work. And when Harrington mentioned it before continuing with his own putt, Olazabal, feeling his integrity was being questioned, conceded the hole and marched to the next tee.
Harrington insisted that was not the case but the Spaniard wasn’t listening. The remaining 15 holes were played in stony silence as the incident festered. And despite the efforts of Harrington to appease the situation, Olazabal stiffly refused to accept his explanation.
It didn’t help that Harrington forced a half point from their match on the final green with a four-foot birdie putt, enough for Britain and Ireland to retain the trophy 15-13.
For around 15 minutes beside the 18th green, the pair were locked in animated conversation.
Olazabal refused to accept all efforts — including those by captains Seve Ballesteros and Montgomerie — to secure a peaceful settlement.
Harrington later said: “It’s not worth losing a friend over but we had 15 very awkward holes. I was not trying to question his integrity but that’s what he thought and I can 100% see his side.
“I certainly won’t be celebrating tonight and it’s not the way I would have liked to get a half.”
All Olazabal would say was: “We had a difference of opinion and I’m not going to waste any more time talking about it.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved