If Pádraig Harrington does get the nod to lead Europe into the 2020 Ryder Cup, as many expect he will, then he could not be happier with the course that the PGA of America has chosen to host the biennial team event.
The race to succeed victorious European skipper Thomas Bjorn will take another couple of months to run, but the European Tour’s policy of promoting from within to ensure continuity looks set to reward the Irishman for a glorious, major-winning career and commitment to the Ryder Cup cause.
Harrington, one of Bjorn’s vice-captains at Le Golf National as Europe regained the cup it lost at Hazeltine in 2016 with a 17½-10½ hammering of the United States, was perfectly placed to witness the Dane’s stewardship of a cohesive, well-balanced, and strong-spirited team of 12.
He will also have heard the criticism of the defeated Americans that they had not familiarised themselves enough with the Parisian course.
Harrington believes the home captain’s licence to set up the host course as he sees fit will be an honour that will continue for at least another 20 or 30 years. He also feels that when the USA welcomes Europe to Wisconsin and Whistling Straits in two years there will be wide fairways and an emphasis on carding birdies, “but, if Europe was to pick a course in the States, we’d pick Whistling Straits. It’s a windy links golf course. Could be quite cold at that time of year.
It is not like they can get the greens super quick that week. They will work to play to their strengths, but it is a course, due to the nature of it, that has some European qualities. It’s a good track for Europe. It’s a good one for Europe to go to. It’s as European as it gets.
Whether three-time vice-captain Harrington is the man to lead Europe over to Whistling Straits was not something the 47-year-old was prepared to discuss as the celebrations at Le Golf National had only just got underway on Sunday night and Bjorn had one more night to savour as the skipper.
Yet, the Dubliner made no secret of his desire to take on the role and become Ireland’s third captain, following Paul McGinley in 2014 and Darren Clarke two years later.
“I always said we’d talk about the next captaincy after this Ryder Cup and this one hasn’t finished. We still have a bit to go. All this talk about what’s happening going forward, it’s for another day. This defines Thomas Bjorn’s career. We’ve seen this with other people. When you have won majors, that’s the pinnacle of the game. If you haven’t won majors, then the Ryder Cup captaincy is huge.
I would love to be a Ryder Cup captain. I’d love to bring my thoughts to the game. It’s an interesting one because I wouldn’t do it without a certain amount of trepidation because it’s not easy. It’s a tough, tough job. Unfortunately, the captain gets judged on results rather than anything else. I wouldn’t go into it lightly, but on balance, yes I want to be a Ryder Cup captain.
“Whoever is next, there will be a good bit of this team still there and there are some nice players who missed out this time. Somebody like Matt Wallace is a player for the future coming strong. At a US golf course, you are looking at players like Thomas Pieters, who make birdies. Maybe a different style of player is needed. That will come out later. It’s not necessarily the best 12 players, you need the best 12 for a team.”
Harrington credited his friend Bjorn for running an inclusive management team, with his five vice-captains kept in the loop every step of the way.
“Thomas kept us very involved as vice-captains. I was very keen about this. We were very much part of it and I felt for Thomas, because I started my career with Thomas. He beat me for rookie of the year. I knew this was a big deal for Thomas and how big it was. This is a tough job. You just don’t want to be a losing captain and you get thrown under the bus if you are.”
Harrington praised the 2018 team as one “that for once had no weakness”.
“This is definitely the best European team, given the strength and balance through it. Maybe at the end of the day, maybe our picks were the pivotal thing. I know people second guess the picks, but we know the detail behind them and the balance and the genuine form.”