CHARLIE MULQUEEN: Major effort required if Harrington to make Ryder Cup cut

Pádraig Harrington has his last chance of making the European Ryder Cup team when he travels to Kiawah Island this week in search of a second US PGA Championship.

Harrington goes into the event on the back of a moderate performance in the Reno-Tahoe Open at the weekend where he finished 23rd. The tournament was very much secondary to the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Akron which he did not qualify to play in and where Keegan Bradley took full advantage of a final hole meltdown by Jim Furyk.

They all move on now to the Ocean Course at Kiawah on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, a venue well remembered for the six-foot putt missed by Bernhard Langer on the final green in the final match that cost Europe the 1991 Ryder Cup.

Harrington has been an ever-present in the European team since 1999 when making his debut in the infamous ‘Battle of Brookline’ but his prospects are far from bright. He is currently back in 29th on the European list and would need to finish in the top three at Kiawah to convince Jose-Maria Olazabal that he is worthy of one of his two wild card picks.

Still a lowly 63rd in the world rankings and with only a couple of top-10 finishes in the Masters and US Open to catch the Spaniard’s attention, Harrington readily admits his chances of making the side are remote.

Nor will it help Harrington’s cause that he remains in the US after Kiawah to enjoy a family holiday before targeting the Barclays Championship, which just happens to fall on the same week as the Johnnie Walker Classic, the last counting event before the European Ryder Cup team is completed. He pursued the same course two years ago and still got the nod from Colin Montgomerie but is hardly likely to receive the same treatment from Olazabal given his current ranking.

However, nobody remains as positive about his game as Harrington, who is further encouraged by the fact this week’s final Major of the season is taking place over at one of his happiest hunting grounds.

He was still in the infancy of his professional career back in 1997 when he and Paul McGinley captured the World Cup.

Rory McIlroy has twice finished third in the PGA and demonstrated during the Bridgestone at the weekend that he may be headed in the right direction after a poor spell. It was good to see him stick to his task, despite dropping three strokes early on, to grab a share of fifth place.

Graeme McDowell may find the many long par-fours at Kiawah (four stretch to more than 480 yards while two of the par-threes are in excess of 220 yards) to his disadvantage. Darren Clarke’s form since he won the 2011 British Open has been pretty dismal and Michael Hoey’s game may not measure up.

Irish-American Bradley (up from 28th to 15th in the world rankings) defends the PGA title on the back of his victory at the Bridgestone.

Tiger Woods, who tied eighth in Akron and remains second in the rankings behind Luke Donald and ahead of McIlroy, still merits clear favouritism at 9/1 followed by Donald and McIlroy at 18/1 with McDowell on offer at 35/1 and Harrington at 40/1.

Meanwhile, the lesser lights on the European Tour are left to kick their heels once again this week. After an exciting run of events in Ireland, France and Scotland leading up to the British Open, they have had only the Austrian Open, with its modest €1m purse, to keep them occupied.

They are again idle next week and won’t resume until the Johnnie Walker at Gleneagles at the end of the month.


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