Padraig Harrington faces tough choices

Ireland’s Padraig Harrington is back in the spotlight, not as a player, but as captain of the European squad this month. Ryder cup in W...


Ireland’s Padraig Harrington is back in the spotlight, not as a player, but as captain of the European squad this month. Ryder cup in Whistling Straits, Wisconsin.

Harrington, 50, a three-time major champion, will compete in the BMW PGA Championship, which kicks off Thursday at the Wentworth Club in England. There, he will monitor the performance of potential members of his team.

After the tournament, he will choose three players to complete the 12-player squad that will face the Americans. The other nine will have qualified on points.

The following conversation, which took place in late August, has been edited and condensed.

Can you tell us about the BMW, the tournament and the course?

Wentworth is the traditional home of the European Tour. It really is a great tournament site. You can score well on it, but when the pressure comes on Sunday those tree-lined, out-of-bounds holes get a little tight.

How are you going to be able to focus on your own game this week?

I hope I can not concentrate on my game. Maybe being on the course will be a little respite.

How do you think the event will unfold because of the Covid-19?

It interests me, actually. Will fans be more excited because they’ve waited so long and there’s a certain level of “Gee, we’re happy to be here?” I suspect, because of Covid, that this is more of a celebration of golf and the Ryder Cup than anything else.

I won’t ask you your three choices, but do you have certain people in mind?

There are three weeks left and I am very aware that things can change, especially since the BMW is such a big event. It would be pretty straightforward right now, but three weeks is a long time in golf.

And are you happy to have three choices?

I chose three. They were giving me eight choices when it was at the height of the pandemic. The reason I wanted three is that whoever is chosen is under more pressure and stress because the media and the public are wondering if anyone else should be chosen.

What do you think of Whistling Straits and how does it fit into your team?

It is very difficult for Europeans to beat an American team on a stereotypical American golf course. Whistling Straits is a links type course. They opened it up as much as possible – I’m sure there will be a lot of birdies – but the elements [wind] will come into play.

Do you sound like Americans are the favorites?

To beat them in the United States is going to take a tremendous amount of effort on our part, and we will certainly have to figure out how to make the collective more confident than the individual. Looks like they’re the strongest they’ve ever been.

Are you happy with your career or do you feel that you haven’t accomplished as much as you thought?

I have achieved much more than I could have dreamed of in this game. I studied accounting. My goal in life when I attended this school was to become an accountant and manage a golf course.

I was a good player, but I didn’t think I was good enough to be a professional. And even when I turned pro my goal would have been to survive touring for half a dozen years and retire and get a good job at a country club.

How much golf will you still play?

I will try to play where I am competitive.

If I don’t feel competitive on the regular circuit, I’m very happy to try and compete in the Champions Tour [a circuit for golfers 50 and older]. I will continue to play and do all I can around golf for years to come.

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