McDowell defends Harrington inclusion




Graeme McDowell is backing Padraig Harrington to give the best possible answer to those who reckon he does not deserve his Ryder Cup chance this week.

“I am sure there’s no better man to handle the pressure than Padraig and I fully expect him to be a force on the team,” McDowell said.

Paul Casey and Justin Rose were both left out by European captain Colin Montgomerie, who proffered the opinion that Harrington is a player “nobody in match play golf wants to play – a great competitor”.

Certainly nobody can argue with the tenacity the Dubliner showed in capturing his three majors, but the last of them was the US PGA over two years ago and he has not won a tour event since.

Nor did he win a game in either the 2006 victory in Ireland or the 2008 defeat in Louisville – and whereas Casey has reached the last two finals of the World Match Play in Arizona, Harrington has lost in the first round to Pat Perez and Jeev Milkha Singh.

“You fully expect Padraig to be the kind of guy that will work so hard and will make sure he’s as well-prepared as anyone,” adds McDowell.

“You can be certain he’s hit quite a few balls the last three weeks. I suspect there’s a fair amount of turf been removed down in Dublin.”

And that appeared to pay off in Paris on Sunday when Harrington shot a best-of-the-day 64 – his joint lowest round of the season – to climb into eighth place at the Vivendi Cup.

“I’m sure Monty is keeping a close eye on him,” adds McDowell.

“It does not matter what anyone has done the last 10 weeks – it’s all about how they play at Celtic Manor and what form they take in there with them.

“I’m also sure that as far as Monty is concerned your picks have to play - there’s no point picking a player to sit him out.

“It doesn’t reflect well on anyone if he gets a pick and then doesn’t play a lot of golf.”

McDowell did not envy Montgomerie the decision he had to make at the end of last month.

“Let’s be honest – we could have had a 16 or 17-man team and be extremely strong,” he said.

“There were a lot of players deserving of a pick – Paul and Justin especially - and Monty had an impossible task.”

The US Open champion easily qualified automatically, although the one-point gap between himself and Edoardo Molinari on the world points list made a massive difference.

The first four members of Europe’s side came from that and if Molinari had simply played the World Match Play in February – even if he had been knocked out in the opening round like McDowell and Harrington – he would not have needed a pick, Peter Hanson would have been knocked out of an automatic spot and Casey or Rose could have been selected.

McDowell’s confidence heading into his second appearance comes not only from his maiden major victory at Pebble Beach, but also his Wales Open win at Celtic Manor two weeks before that.

The 31-year-old finished 64-63 and says: “I thought it was set up really well in June – good thick rough off the fairways, some nice run-offs around the green. I thought it was perfect.

“The course is set up for a very good driver of the ball. It’s not a ’bombs away’ course. You have to plot your way around a bit and keep it out of the nasty thick stuff. I hope it’s going to be the same again.

“(Bubba) Watson, (Dustin) Johnson, (Phil) Mickelson, Tiger (Woods) are big hitters and if they can hit it straight it’s going to be a big weapon in the bag, but it’s not the be-all and end-all.”

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