DARREN CLARKE insists Pádraig Harrington is key to Europe’s hopes of winning back the Ryder Cup.
The Ulsterman is one of Colin Montgomerie’s three vice-captains for the clash with the US at Celtic Manor from 1-3 October.
And while he fully expects Harrington to make a last gasp dash to qualify on merit, he hinted Harrington would be a certain wildcard for the clash with Corey Pavin’s American side
Speaking at rain-lashed Lough Erne, where he teamed up with Rory McIlroy to beat Harrington and Shane Lowry 66-67 in an exhibition match, Clarke said: “We need Pádraig on the team. We want Pádraig on the team and we all hope Pádraig is on the team.
“Without a doubt, you want Pádraig on the first tee in the Ryder Cup. That is how good he is. That’s how much respect he has amongst all his peers and I have no doubt that he will be there.”
Harrington has just three big events to play his way into the team before he has to decide between the non-counting Barclays Classic in the US or the final qualifying event at Gleneagles.
But Clarke believes the three-time major winner will make it on merit, insisting: “You know what Pádraig is like. When Pádraig puts his mind to something, it is very rare he doesn’t succeed. He’s stubborn and talented. Massively talented.”
Harrington missed the cut in the Open at St Andrews and is now ninth in the race for four places from the Ryder Cup World Points List and more than 293,223 points outside the top five qualifiers at 17th in the European Points List.
Hoping to avoid the need for a wildcard, the Dubliner regrets not playing more European Tour events but still believes he can pick up the win he needs to make the side on merit.
“I’ve had 14 top 10s in the last year but I’m not earning the bigger ranking points,” Harrington said.
“With only four guys getting in on the world rankings it’s a tough team to make. Maybe I should have focused more on the European money list end of things. But then I thought the world rankings was more where I would be focused. It hasn’t quite worked out that way — as of yet.”
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