Update: Padraig Harrington said he was taking the European Ryder Cup captaincy for 2020 with a degree of trepidation and was putting his legacy on the line but insisted he was the right man at the right time to lead Europe’s defence against the United States at Whistling Straits.
To the surprise of no-one in golf, Harrington, 47, was on Tuesday confirmed to succeed Thomas Bjorn as the captain of Europe who delivered the cup at Le Golf National last September. Harrington, a three-time major winner, played in six Ryder Cups between 1999 and 2010, winning it four times, and was vice-captain for the last three playings of the biennial event.
The Dubliner is the third European captain from the island of Ireland to be honoured with the role by the European Tour following Paul McGinley, who won at Gleneagles in 2014 and Darren Clarke who lost at Hazeltine National in 2016, and it was the varying experiences of those predecessors that meant he had mixed emotions about succeeding them.
“I’m thrilled to be named as the Ryder Cup captain for 2020,” Harrington said during a press conference at Wentworth Golf Club in England to announce his appointment.
“It’s not something I went into lightly. I suppose you could look at this as being a natural progression, you know, you move on from player to vice-captain to captain but it’s not something I take on without a certain amount of trepidation.
“I really want to be a help. I want to hopefully leave a Ryder Cup and the European Tour in a better place after two years. I know we want continuity in Europe, we want to keep moving along and ideally we would play the Ryder Cup tomorrow with the same 12 guys but I know we’re going to a new venue, it’s an away match. We’re going to have on average three more rookies coming into the team.
“I have to be a part of that team and ensure that I find an edge to make the team perform to the best of its ability, to get the most out of them and hopefully get a win. Having been a player, having won three majors, I’ve done a lot in my personal career but talking on the Ryder Cup captaincy is a different level and it’s something that I’m really conscious that I have to find that edge and add to it.
“That’s something I don’t take lightly.”
Whatever his Irish predecessors’ Ryder Cup records as players and captains, Harrington was a more successful performer as an individual with more than 30 victories worldwide in addition to his three majors. That is a legacy he was aware he was putting on the line by taking on the 2020 captaincy.
“Some of it is outside of my control. I will concentrate on what I can control but it does reflect on my career, how this goes and I’m aware that I could have passed up on this and just kept on going as a nice tournament golfer.
“But I am, like everybody else who takes on the Ryder Cup, when you’re a Ryder Cup captain you’re putting a lot of your... legacy on the line.”
Harrington said his profile in the United States as a three-time major winner, one of which was the PGA Championship at Oakland Hills near Detroit in 2008, helped make him the right man at the right time.
“It does fit nicely that I have performed and played in the US and I would be reasonably well known in the US. The event itself is not too far from Chicago which has a nice Irish base so yeah, there’s a lot of good reasons for me to be the captain in the US and all of them should be helpful to me and the team in terms of support.
“Everything really lines this up as a good… I’m the right man for the job at this time.”
Padraig Harrington is expected to be named as Europe's captain for the 2020 Ryder Cup today.
The three-time major winner is the clear favourite to succeed Thomas Bjorn at Whistling Straits, where Europe will be bidding to defend the trophy won in Paris last year.
An announcement is expected at a press conference at the European Tour's Wentworth headquarters.
Harrington has served as a vice-captain at the last three Ryder Cups and appeared in the biennial contest against the United States six times as a player, beginning at Brookline in 1999. He was on the winning team in 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2010.
The 47-year-old Dubliner also has good experience of the course in Wisconsin having played there in the US PGA Championships of 2004, 2010 and 2015.
Bjorn and past captains Darren Clarke and Paul McGinley are on the panel that selects the next captain along with European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley and a member of the Tour's Players Committee.
Harrington became the favourite after Lee Westwood, the other main candidate, indicated a preference to do the job in Rome in 2022.
Europe have dominated the Ryder Cup in the modern era, winning nine of the last 12 matches.