Pádraig Harrington: Get neutral to set up Ryder Cup course

Pádraig Harrington has made the case for Ryder Cup courses to be set up by neutral parties rather than the host tour.
Pádraig Harrington: Get neutral to set up Ryder Cup course
Pádraig Harrington: "In Europe, we like tough conditions; In the US they like a birdie fest. If it was a perfect world we would have an Australian referee setting it up, or something neutral"

Pádraig Harrington has made the case for Ryder Cup courses to be set up by neutral parties rather than the host tour.

The three-time Major champion is the current European captain and, as such, will have no say over how the Whistling Straits venue in Wisconsin will play whenever the biennial tournament does actually tee off.

The same is true for the Americans, of course, when the event is played in Europe.

The USA travelled to France in 2018 with a team regarded as its finest ever but Paul McGinley was among those to suggest that the set-up at Le National outside Paris was one good reason to favour the Europeans who then won with seven points to spare.

“In Europe we prefer a golf course that is very difficult and par is a good score,” said Harrington, one of the guest speakers on the second day of the Analytica 2020 Zoom conference held in aid of Pieta House.

So we will put in very narrow fairways, exceptionally narrow fairways, and very heavy rough. And we will put in slow greens because they don’t like slow greens.

The American preference, as he pointed out, is for a course that facilitates lower scores and he referenced previous US successes at Valhalla and Hazeltine as proof. Even Medinah, where Europe produced the miracle comeback in 2012, was the same.

“We like tough conditions, they like a birdie fest. If it was a perfect world — and Europe has become good enough to do this now — we would have an Australian referee setting it up, or something neutral."

Harrington is never less than a fascinating interviewee and he shared as freely as ever from his house where he has spent lockdown, lost some weight, grown a beard and passed some of his time posting a slew of superb online coaching tips.

There were conversational detours into the player-caddie relationship and the sometimes counter-productive measures courses take to curb the game’s longer hitters, as well as takes on the main topic which was stats and their use in sport.

Few players think about the game so much. Harrington has been using technology since the VHS days and has more recently taken to wearing a body suit which provides a 3D image of how every single sinew strains when taking a shot.

Statistics and statisticians have been used too, though he knows numbers can be deceiving. A players ‘greens in regulation’ numbers are one thing but they don’t explain whether he/she is aiming for the pin or playing it safe.

“I’ve had many an argument with Paul McGinley about this. Paul was a beautiful golfer and I played a lot with him.

"He was a very solid tee-to-green player but he wasn’t a great putter and the reason was because he kept leaving himself 20 to 25 feet in greens in regulation, which seems sensible, but you don’t hold many putts from there.”

Harrington can only hope that his stint as Ryder Cup skipper proves to be as successful as that of his fellow Irishman.

When the latest tournament will be played isn’t the only question. How many captains picks Harrington will be allowed is another poser. And that’s before he has to drop four of his players for each of the first four sessions.

“That’s a lot of people to manage and they all think they should be playing. You may drop one of your best four players.

"He could be your third best but you may drop him because you want to get another person out and his matchup is against a different person altogether.

“The 11th best player playing with the seventh-best player is a better match-up than three and 11.

“I have been behind the scenes for this and the stats are incredibly important in this situation, to know the balance of players, but it is then up to the feel of the captain who might think this guy is a winner and get him back on the golf course.”

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