Harrington finds himself in Ryder Cup predicament
- By Jason Sobel
- Aug 23, 2012 1:57 PM ET
FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – Two weeks ago, in advance of the PGA Championship, European Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal was asked about the chances of two longtime veterans making the team as potential wild-card selections.
Olazabal first spoke glowingly of countryman Sergio Garcia, calling him a “great team player” and a “great asset.” Garcia summarily obliged, winning the next week in Greensboro to make the roster and avoid needing a pick.
When he got to Padraig Harrington, though, the captain wrinkled his nose as if tasting sour milk. Of the three-time major champion, he said, “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.”
So far at The Barclays, he’s doing something extraordinary indeed.
Harrington opened with a 7-under 64 at Bethpage Black to further blur the European team picture with only days remaining for the roster to be set.
Here are the particulars: The window for acquiring points through a PGA Tour event has closed, so nothing Harrington – nor Ian Poulter or anyone else, for that matter – does this week in the U.S. can automatically qualify him for the team. However, the list is still attainable for those competing in the Johnnie Walker Championship, which includes hard-charging Nicolas Colsaerts, who is two off the lead there and can squeeze Martin Kaymer off the team with a second-place finish this week.
All of which should be sweet music to the ears of Olazabal, who would love to have more candidates for his two captain’s picks coming this Monday morning than not enough, right?
Well, sort of.
There’s a long running feud between Olazabal and Harrington that dates back to the 2003 Seve Trophy, which depending on whom you listen to could be a minor speedbump in the decision-making process or the sole reason the captain won’t pick him for the team.
When asked about their relationship after his strong opening-round performance, Harrington paused for a good 10 seconds, then said, “You know, I don't know where I sit. Or maybe I do. I kind of feel it's not something I'm really going to get into and discuss because I'm either going to do one of two things: I'm either going to look like I'm pleading or I'm going to look like I'm incriminating myself – one or the other.
“As I keep saying to people, you over here have this thing called the Fifth. I'm going to plead the Fifth. I'm not going to build myself up or I'm not going to tear myself down. At the end of the day, it's up to him.”
Of course, his position as the game’s preeminent notebook-filler wouldn’t be served by pleading the Fifth, so he continued ruminating on his relationship with Olazabal and how it could help or hurt his chances.
“I was very supportive of Jose when he got the captaincy,” he explained. “I truly believe that he's interested in winning the Ryder Cup. … From the character that he is, I believe he would put winning way above anything that's personal. The Ryder Cup means so much to Europe, particularly to Jose as a European player. Nobody, bar Seve [Ballesteros], would understand in his mind what it means to Europe.”
And yes, this being Harrington – an interview room all-star if there ever was one – he continued…
“I don't really know what's going on. As I said, I'm in a terrible place,” he added. “Look, it's a tough situation I'm in. Not playing in the bigger events outside of those four majors hurt my cause. … That's the way it is. Look, at the end of the day, we'll see how we get on this week. I'm going to keep playing well and see what happens. I'd dearly love to play in the Ryder Cup. I've played four out of six Ryder Cups.”
He concluded by hinting at the fact that he hadn’t planned on getting into any of this. “See,” he said, “I'm starting to plead now.”
Harrington can take solace in the fact that his game and his scorecard are doing plenty of talking for him so far. With six birdies on his final eight holes, he posted a back-nine 29 to get into early contention for his first title on any major tour since 2008.
Over at the Johnnie Walker, some 3,000 miles from Long Island, Olazabal is keeping a close eye on Harrington’s performance. When asked what result would be “extraordinary” enough to earn a pick, the captain replied, “At least a win.”
If it happens, if Harrington can pull off the unthinkable and claim the title on Sunday, he will clearly put himself in position as a major contender in the race for one of those two captain’s picks – whether the captain himself likes it or not.
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