Padraig Harrington will have a key role to play as one of Darren Clarke’s five assistants at Hazeltine. After six appearances as a player – four on the victorious side – Harrington’s run came to an end at Gleneagles in 2014, though he provided great inspiration to Paul McGinley’s triumphant side. He’s hoping for a repeat performance this year, telling TG: “There’s nothing like the Ryder Cup. It’s unbelievable pressure, tension, excitement – very much them and us and we’re the country cousins with a point to prove and a chip on our shoulder. There’s always conspiracy theories which all adds to the drama.”
There’s more pressure in the Ryder Cup than any other event. The reason – and most people don’t recognise this – is that normally you’re only under pressure if you’re in contention in the last nine holes of a tournament having played well for 63 holes. But if you go out on Sunday at the Ryder Cup, my match could be the decider down the back nine and I might have played terribly all week. Never do you come under pressure when you’re playing average or badly… this is the one time. Few people see the subtlety or difference with that – they usually see great shots when players are feeling good, but in the Ryder Cup you have to hit great shots when you could be feeling awful.
My favourite Ryder Cup was my first one in 1999 at Brookline, which most people would say was a horrible experience (Europe lost in controversial circumstances). But, for me, it was brilliant – as exciting as a football match, and we don’t get that in golf.
The stats show that certain players play great with young rookies and certain players can’t carry another player – they need somebody to carry them and they play great if they’ve got a big player alongside them. There’s all sorts of egos going on. It’s amazing and that’s what a good captain has to figure out; how he can get his players to play their best whenever they take to the course. I had a good run with Ross Fisher at Celtic Manor and he played unbelievable golf because he trusted me and it was phenomenal how I could put him at ease.
Darren is leaving no stone unturned. He fronts with a very gregarious style, but he actually puts in the work behind the scenes. Obviously I’m disappointed not to make the team, but I’m happy to be there – I’ve got the best seat in the house! There’s no pressure on me, yet I’m right in there.
There are two reasons we’ve been so dominant recently. Firstly, the players are good, and second we’re exceptionally motivated. It’s a big deal for Europe to win the Ryder Cup, it really is. The greatest achievement and compliment the European team can take is that we’ve made the Americans care. They care now, we’ve made them care. They’re trying hard.
They’ve obviously got a lot of big names in their side and it looks like we’ll have a few rookies, but our stalwarts are coming into form and a lot will depend on the form of the guys Darren picks. His picks are key along with how they will be able to get the best out of the rookies. The rookies are good enough, but they need to be managed and have a shoulder to lean on, on the course.
I think we’ll win again, but it won’t be easy. It’s all about small margins, plus it’s tougher in the USA. The crowds don’t make it tougher, though they make a bit of difference – it’s more about the home course set-up.
Padraig’s Ryder Cup Record:
● Played 25: Won 9, Lost 13, Halved 3
● Defining moment: The Dubliner was the inspiration behind Europe’s crushing 2004 at Oakmont, winning four of his five matches.
● He joins the injured Ian Poulter, veteran Thomas Bjorn, former Open champ Paul Lawrie and 2002 captain Sam Torrance as assistants.