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Love, Olazabal drop hints on Phil, Stricker, Paddy

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KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – Phil Mickelson and Steve Stricker are locks to make the U.S. Ryder Cup team, Sergio Garcia will be heavily considered for a captain’s pick on the European side if he doesn’t qualify on points and Padraig Harrington needs to play well in a hurry or he’ll be left off the European squad for the first time since 1997.

Ryder Cup captains Davis Love III (U.S.) and Jose Maria Olazabal (Europe) held court Wednesday at the PGA Championship and dropped hints that all the above are extremely likely.

The top eight in points Sunday night here at the Ocean Course will qualify for the U.S. team. Although Mickelson is on the cusp in the eighth position, he has not played well lately and Hunter Mahan, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour this year, is close behind at No. 9. Mickelson has made eight consecutive Ryder Cups.

“I’ve talked to Phil several times this week and watched him play a little bit, and he’s very excited about making the team,” Love said. “He’s a lot like me or anybody; when you keep making a bunch of teams, you don’t want to be picked, you want to make it. I know he’s grinding.

“But it would be hard to play without him. He’s been such a big part of a lot of Ryder Cups in a row.”

Love was more direct about Stricker’s chances of making the team. He’s 10th in points entering the PGA, is one of the best putters in the world and is easy to pair with Tiger Woods.

“Obviously if Steve Stricker was on the outside, we have a guy (Woods) that likes to play with him,” Love said. “That’s a lock.”

The European team takes five players off the European points list and another five off the world points list on Aug. 26 following the Johnnie Walker Championship. Olazabal then gets two captain’s selections. The captain made his feelings known about Garcia, a fellow Spaniard, who is in the fifth position on the world points list.

“You’ve seen him play a Ryder Cup,” Olazabal said. “He’s a great team player. His spirit is always really good and, in that regard, I think he’s a great asset to the team. If you are looking at the players to be on your team, Sergio would certainly be one of them for sure.”

The same cannot be said for Harrington. Despite collecting top-10 finishes in the Masters (T-8) and the British Open (T-8), Harrington is nowhere to be found on either European qualifying list. He’s only missed three cuts and has five top-10 finishes in 2012, but Olazabal doesn’t seem to be impressed.

“We’ve known Padraig, he’s a very methodical player, he really works hard at it,” Olazabal said. “From tee-to-green his game has been fairly good, but I think his putting has let him down.

“Three weeks left. If he really does extraordinarily well, he can have a great chance of making the team still, but it’s going to be up to him.”

Love named Fred Couples and Mike Hulbert as assistant captains earlier this summer, but still will name two more assistant captains in the next month. Olazabal said he'd wait until this week is over to name his two assistant captains.