Europe Hangs Hopes on Harrington

By Mercer BaggsSeptember 6, 2002, 4:00 pm
His runner-up finishes outnumber his victories, 7-1, over the past two years. Hes fighting injuries from his neck to his ankle. And he doesnt even know who his opponents are.
 
But come Sept. 27, he may be Europes strongest hope in returning the Ryder Cup to the continent.
 
Padraig Harrington has asserted himself as the best fulltime player on the European Tour. Hes risen from 24th in the Official World Golf Ranking at the start of the 2001 season to eighth. Only Sergio Garcia (fifth) is a higher ranked European-born player.
 
Since his rookie season in 1996, Harrington has also made constant strides up the Order of Merit (money ranking) ladder. Last year, he finished second in the money race to Retief Goosen.
 
Unfortunately, second place is almost second nature to the 31-year-old Irishman.
 
Harrington finished second six times in 2001, twice in 2000 and five times in 1999. Since turning pro, the overall tally is: four wins and four times as many runner-ups.
 
Ironically, it was back-to-back second-place finishes that helped him qualify for his first Ryder Cup, in 99.
 
He went 1-1-1 in his debut at Brookline, earning one of only three European singles victories on that disastrous Sunday, when the Americans overcame the largest final-day deficit in tournament history to steal back the Cup.
 
This go-around, Harrington didnt need a 12-round decision to win a spot on the team. He finished second ' go figure ' in the qualifying process. And judging by his results thus far this season, hell be a lock for years to come.
 
Although he hasnt won in 2002 ' and finished second only once ' Harringtons accomplishments have been of major caliber.
 
He tied for fifth in the Masters; tied for eighth in the U.S. Open; tied for fifth in the British Open; and tied for 17th in the PGA Championship.
 
One of the lasting images from Hazeltine is the site of Harrington in a headlock. Padraig strained his neck 10 minutes before the start of his third round, and had to undergo a quick set of stretches. His trainer grappled his neck, twisted and turned. It looked like Harrington had stolen range balls and the ranger was applying the sleeper to get him to confess.
 
More serious, however, Harrington twisted his ankle at the Dutch Open, and after eight weeks he has yet to fully recover.
 
I was very happy with the way I was swinging for a couple of weeks, but it changes what you have to work on, Harrington said at the World Golf Championships-NEC Invitational.
 
It will be fine. Today, tomorrow, a week from now, I dont know when, but it will be fine ' definitely by the time of the Ryder Cup.
 
He is undergoing tests this week on both his neck and back.
Health issues aside, Harrington said hes been mentally prepared to play the Ryder Cup since he was a teen.
 
It was much tougher playing in front of 10-20,000 people in the Walker Cup at 18 (years old), he said.
 
The only thing at the Ryder Cup which is different is the length of the intensity; on Tuesday, when you practice, there is pressure.
 
Its not a pleasant feeling when youre having it, but the further away you get from the Ryder Cup, the more you think you enjoyed it. Its like a roller coaster or bungee jumping ' as its actually happening youre thinking, Why am I doing this? But when its finished you think, Oh, that was great.
 
Harringtons Ryder Cup introduction came in 1985, when Europe won the event for the first time in 28 years.
 
I was 14 at the time, and 14 years of age is just about the time I was starting to take golf seriously, so, yeah, it was a big deal, he said. I can remember Sam Torrance, obviously, holing the winning putt, but I also remember Christy OConnor, Jr., hitting that 2-iron ' beating Fred Couples, which was amazing in a small country like Ireland, you know, for Christy Jr. to beat Fred Couples.
 
Coincidentally, Torrance is now Harringtons Cup captain, and The Belfry, which hosted the 85 event, is this years venue as well.
 
Harrington can name the site and his captain. But three years removed from the last Ryder Cup, and a full year since the teams were finalized, hes hard-pressed to tell you the 24 participants.
 
While playing in the PGA Championship, Harrington struck up a conversation with one of his playing competitors over the first two days. He started talking about the Ryder Cup ' wanted to know if his future opponent was psyched about making his debut. He was talking to Chris DiMarco, however, who didnt make the American team.
 
That shows you how much I know about the Ryder Cup, Harrington joked. If I sat down and thought about it, it would take me a while and I might get the 12 names (on the U.S. team). Im sure some of us couldnt even name our own teams.
 
Like most everyone else, Harrington is unwavering in his belief that the Cup should have been postponed in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on the United States.
 
Everybody is going to be thinking about September 11th, and rightfully, too,' said Harrington. 'I dont think its going to affect the play of the golf and I think it might add to the sporting occasion.
 
Its going to be there and its going to take equal importance, but its not going to overshadow the event.
 
With a bad-back Colin Montgomerie 50-50 for the matches and four rookies on the team, the Europeans will be looking for leadership. Bernhard Langer, making his 10th appearance, will be the elder statesman in the locker room, but it will be up to the likes of Harrington to lead the team on the course.
 
This time, second place will not suffice.
 
Full coverage of the 34th Ryder Cup Matches
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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.