FOR Pádraig Harrington, the commencement of this Ryder Cup can’t come soon enough.
Yesterday he endured his final media duties before facing the Americans and the questioning at times felt more like an inquisition.
His good fortune to receive one of Colin Montgomerie’s three ‘wild card’ picks and the controversy that surrounded that decision was the central theme and the Dubliner must have been a relieved man at the session’s end.
“I’m aware of what’s being said and written and while I will defend myself, I certainly will not apologise,” he responded.
“There’s no doubt Paul Casey and Justin Rose are good enough to be on our Ryder Cup team. This year, we had a lot of players who didn’t make the team and all five of us could give you a list as long as your arm about why we should have been picked. It comes down to the preference of the captain. It’s how he sees it. Thankfully, maybe with the balance of the team, the six rookies and the age profile, swung it in my favour.
“Justin Rose has won twice this year and going into the FedEx Cup final, had a chance of being player of the year in the States. It would have been incredible to have the player of the year not make our team. Certainly, I do have to defend my position but, you know, apologising and those sorts of things don’t have a place in golf. You’re putting your neck on the line every time and you have to take responsibility for that. It’s like playing foursomes/fourballs this week. You’re going to try over every shot so there’s no point in apologising to your partner if you hit a bad shot.
“As long as you are giving it 100%, there’s nothing more you can do.”
Montgomerie almost went overboard in praising Harrington’s golf in Tuesday’s opening practice round. The Europeans only played nine holes yesterday, largely because of the awful weather, and also because they had to get to Cardiff Castle to meet Prince Charles prior to the gala dinner.
Harrington said of his Wednesday performance: “I started poorly but played well after that. But I wouldn’t read too much into it. You know, back in 1999 as a rookie, the intention wasn’t to play me and it was late into Thursday afternoon that I got the call. As a wild card, you want to play well in practice, as a rookie you want to play well in practice to make sure you get into the starting line-up. I’m probably paying a little more attention to how I play in the practice rounds than I normally would have in the Ryder Cup.” Harrington hinted he knows the identity of his partner tomorrow but wouldn’t elaborate.
He was more forthcoming when a possible role as team leader on the course was raised.
“I’m trying to do as much as I can in talking to the rookies and giving them advice and confidence,” he said.
“To be a leader on the course, that really requires your golf clubs to do the talking. That’s where Monty was fantastic at going head-to-head and controlling the situation.”
The mutual feeling of respect between Harrington and Montgomerie continued when the Irishman claimed the outcome could be down to the decisions of the rival captains.
“The teams are that evenly balanced,” he maintained. “The decisions Colin makes with regard to the partnerships, who to play, who to drop, when to rest guys, that’s going to be crucial as to how the team performs.
“I think he is the man to make the hard decisions and the right choices.”
Harrington has had two successive disappointing Ryder Cups.
But he stressed that the team performance is more important than the individual.
“All that counts is that the team wins,” he declared.
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