Pádraig Harrington will not make this year’s Ryder Cup team unless he plays “extraordinarily well” in the closing stages of the race.
Those were the three words chosen and repeated by Europe’s captain Jose Maria Olazabal yesterday on the eve of the USPGA Championship, an event Harrington won in 2008 and may have to win again to qualify for a seventh successive cap.
The 40-year-old Dubliner needed one of Colin Montgomerie’s three captain’s picks to keep his cup run going two years ago, but Olazabal has opted for only two wild cards.
Harrington stands 19th in the standings and although the race does not finish until August 26 — for the Americans the end comes this Sunday — the start of the FedEx Cup play-offs that week does not count for points.
“He’s well down the list — he will have to really do extraordinary well here,” Olazabal said.
“We’ve known Padraig, he’s a very methodical player — he really works hard at it.
“I’ve played with him a couple of times during this year. From tee-to-green his game has been fairly good, but I think his putting has let him down this year so far.
“Three weeks left — if he really does extraordinarily well, he can have a great chance of making the team still, but it’s going to be up to him.”
Harrington almost dropped out of the world’s top 100 earlier this season, but he has also finished eighth in The Masters and fourth in the US Open — and this week he is back on the Kiawah Island course in South Carolina where he and Paul McGinley lifted the 1997 World Cup for Ireland.
Ian Poulter, outstanding in the last two matches and winner of two World Match Play titles, is also in need of a pick as things stand and it could be that Sergio Garcia, currently in the 10th and last automatic position, requires one as well.
Olazabal spoke in glowing terms of his fellow Spaniard, who like him served as a vice-captain as Celtic Manor after not making the side.
“You’ve seen him play a Ryder Cup — he’s a great team player. His spirit is always really good,” he said.
“In that regard, I think he’s a great asset to the team. He has obviously the experience, the knowledge. He wants to be part of it.
Harrington has been asked this week if he was able to put the Ryder Cup to one side this week and just focus on the major at hand.
“I have to,” he told reporters. “I can’t concentrate on something I haven’t control over. I’ve just got to keep playing my golf and be content that I’m playing well.”
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