Europe Hangs Hopes on Harrington
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
McCoy earns medalist honors at Web.com Q-School
One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Web.com Tour Q-School.
McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.
It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.
McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Web.com Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).
Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).
Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Web.com Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.
Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award
The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.
The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.
Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.
The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.
A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.
Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4
Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.
Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.
South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.
Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.
The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.
Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout
It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.
Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.
Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.
"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."
Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.
Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.