Sunday Harrington became the first European to win a major in the 21st century when he outlasted Sergio Garcia in a memorable playoff at Carnoustie in the British Open. The win also made him the first Irishman in 60 years to get his hands around the Claret Jug. Earlier this year Harrington became the first Irishman in 25 years to conquer the Irish Open. And in 1997, Harrington and countryman Paul McGinley were the first Irishmen to capture the World Cup in 40 years.
One former European Ryder Cupper told me this week that it is now a virtual cinch that Harrington will one day captain a Ryder Cup team. The only question is when.
Meanwhile the only sure thing picks ahead of Harrington in the European captaincy queue are Colin Montgomerie and Jose Maria Olazabal.
The 35-year-old Harrington isnt likely to be named captain until 2014 at the earliest. He would be 43 by the time the matches were played that year at Gleneagles in Scotland. Englishman Tony Jacklin was 39 when he captained the Euros against the Americans in the 1983 Ryder Cup.
But there is a strong sense that Harringtons victory at Carnoustie may have pushed him ahead of Northern Irelands Darren Clarke in the unofficial race to become the first Irish captain. Clarke is four years older than Harrington and another sure bet to captain the Euros one day.
Clarke has played in five Ryder Cups, Harrington four.
SOUTHERN HILLS UPDATE:
The major season will conclude the week after next with the PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa. Superintendent Russ Myers wishes it was today.
Myers said Tuesday his golf course is exactly where Kerry Haigh, the PGAs course set-up guy, wants it. That includes greens running at between 11.5 and 12 on the Stimpmeter and rough that is strong, thick and dense.
Myers said temperatures in the 90s are predicted for Tulsa the next several weeks and will force his grounds crew to treat the grasses with extra care because of the heat. The good news, he said, is all the rain Tulsa has had for the last two and a half months.
May was the fourth-wettest in Tulsa history, he said. There were only five days in June that we didnt get rain, and the first two weeks in July it rained almost every day.
Myers said the course was flooded out more than once during that time. But the upside was that fewer rounds were played by members and cart usage was extremely limited. The temperatures never got too high on us during that period, he said. We survived it well.
The rains finally relented a week ago. So now the first thing the players will check out when they arrive at Southern Hills is the ninth and 18th greens. In 2001 at the U.S. Open both those elevated greens had to be altered during tournament week. Their pitch from front to back was too severe to hold approach shots while keeping them at the same speed as the other 16 surfaces.
The result was an inconsistency that forced a renovation three years ago. Thats when course architect Keith Foster spearheaded a re-design that lowered the back of the ninth and 18th greens while raising the fronts. The net effect was a leveling of the putting surfaces and a better receptivity to well-struck shots. It also enabled the PGA to pick up a new front left hole location on the 18th that would have been unthinkable in 2001.
If we could have the tournament here this week, Id be ecstatic, Myers said. Right now there are no issues.
Tadd Fujikawa, the 16-year-old golfing mighty mite from Hawaii, will make his PGA TOUR debut as a professional next week at Reno-Tahoe Open.
Sources say Fujikawa hasnt spiked ticket sales. But he has already visited the Montreux Golf and Country Club to play a couple of practice rounds.
Tadd knows this isnt Hawaii and it isnt Japan, said tournament director Jim Kline, who granted Fujikawa a sponsors exemption but cant, by the TOUR rules, pay appearance money.
Kline said despite normal ticket sales there has been a buzz surrounding Fujikawas debut. And Kline intends to take advantage of that by slotting Fujikawa into the Monday and Wednesday Pro-Ams. He will pair Fujikawa with First Tee kids on Monday. And, Kline predicted, Fujikawa will go near the top of the blind draw draft at the pairings party Tuesday night when amateurs get to pick their pros for Wednesdays Pro-Am.
This has certainly been no type of Michelle Wie effect, Kline said. But people here are excited.
The Reno-Tahoe Open is being played the same week as the PGA TOURs WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone in Ohio.
So exactly when, a lot of people want to know, will the Open Championship be returning to Carnoustie, the Scottish golf course that delivers all that high drama.
Currently the R&A has only announced it Open Championship schedule through 2010 when it will convene at the Old Course at St. Andrews.
A highly-placed senior tournament official pointed out that there are nine British Open venues at the moment. St. Andrews gets the Open Championship roughly every fifth year. The other eight host approximately every 10th year.
The best guest is that Carnoustie will host again in 2017, give or take a year. To put that in perspective, Tiger Woods will probably have turned 40 the next time the Open Championship gets to Carnoustie.
Meanwhile the R&A has stated publicly that it wants to return to Carnoustie provided, the official said, Carnoustie Links would have them.
Right now there is no reason to think they wouldnt.
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