Given his European roots, Ryder Cup experience and decent 2012 form, Padraig Harrington logically could have been expected to be asked in recent weeks about his chances to be a captain’s pick for a seventh team.
Harrington, a member of each of the last six European teams, fielded the queries with his customary flair and dignity, and he even insisted that he wasn’t sick of them or wishing them away. He said at The Barclays last Sunday that no part of him wanted the process to be over, but that it would be easier to talk about once there was clarity.
Well, the clarity arrived Monday, when European captain Jose Maria Olazabal named Ian Poulter and Nicolas Colsaerts to round out the team that will defend the Ryder Cup against the Americans on Sept. 28-30 at Medinah Country Club near Chicago. And true to his word, Harrington offered his thoughts.
“I think his two picks were very straightforward. I don’t see how you can argue with those,” said Harrington, taking time out from a practice-putting session at TPC Boston in Norton, Mass., where he’ll tee it up Friday in the Deutsche Bank Championship.
“I’m a great believer (that) if you don’t make it into the team automatically, you don’t have any comebacks, any rights. I’m disappointed not to be on the team, but I’m comfortable with the whole thing. I’m pretty understanding of it.”
Cognizant of how detrimental it was to let his world ranking slip (he was 22nd when the Ryder Cup was played in 2010, but 85th by the end of 2011), Harrington said he hurt his cause by not being eligible for any of this year’s World Golf Championships: the Accenture Match Play, the Cadillac Championship or the Bridgestone Invitational.
“You can’t leave (world-ranking) points on the table,” he said.
No complaints, though. Harrington took ownership, and insisted that his plan to make the 2014 team “starts right now.” First and foremost, “I’ve got to get back into the top 50, and quickly.”
But Harrington, who sits 59th in the world order, showed his greatest class when the topic was broached of Colsaerts not coming through Sunday with a first or second at the Johnnie Walker Championship. Had the Belgian done that, he would have earned the 10th and final automatic-qualifying spot and . . .
Harrington knew exactly where the questioning was going, that had Colsaerts qualified, he would have knocked Martin Kaymer off the team, and Olazabal perhaps would have named Poulter and Harrington and bypassed the German. After all, it’s no secret that Kaymer, the 2010 PGA champion, has struggled. His last six starts read like this: MC, T-29, MC, T-29, 70th, MC, and he’s 27 over par in those 18 rounds. His last top 10 was in Malaysia – and that was in April. Not long ago, he was No. 1 in the world; today, he is 27th and playing like he should be 270th.
The Irishman put a halt to all of it.
“I think Kaymer’s a really good player, and I think he will do himself justice the week of the (Ryder Cup),” Harrington said. “He’s a big-tournament player. I don’t think Jose will need to worry about him.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw Kaymer teeing off in the first morning. He’s that type of player. I know he hasn’t been building himself up, but I believe in him.”
The Irishman also believes this: “It’s still very important for Europe to win the Ryder Cup.”
With that feeling burning within, Harrington said he’ll “probably watch the most golf over those three days” that he ever has. In fact, he has his menu set – Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food ice cream and Coca-Colas.
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POULTER SOUND BITE I: Asked if the best thing about the captain’s picks being announced was the fact it spared him the weekly queries from the media, the Englishman shook his head.
“I haven’t had that many questions this year. I’m quite chilled about it. You guys have been quite nice to me this year,” he said to a group of reporters at The Barclays.
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POULTER SOUND BITE II: So, what’s the stylish one got on his plate?
“I’m looking forward to playing well next week, on a golf course I don’t like. (That would be TPC Boston.) That’s my focus. I want to win this FedEx Cup. I’d like to play well the following week at the BMW. I’d like to take a nice week off, and I’d like to go to the Tour Championship, which I’ve never made, and then I’d like to go out there (to Chicago) and give it some serious passion for the Ryder Cup.
“That’s what’s on my mind.”
Asked to expand on his dislike of TPC Boston, where Poulter has missed the cut in four of his five starts, he declined. “I’m not going to go there,” he said. “It’s a bomber’s paradise.”
Curiously, though, none of the past three winners at TPC Boston – Steve Stricker, Charley Hoffman and Webb Simpson – would be classified as a “bomber,” nor would Olin Browne, who won in 2005. Then there’s the fact that Chez Reavie was one shot away from a stunning win last year, before making bogey at the 72nd hole and losing in a playoff to Simpson.
We’re willing to bet no one has ever labeled the 5-foot-9-inch, 160-pound Reavie a “bomber,” and ditto Luke Donald, who has been T-2 and T-3 in the past two years at TPC Boston.
But, of course, everyone is entitled to an opinion.
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FILE THIS UNDER “UPSET”: Pat Perez is looking forward to a golf date in Scotland. Yes, the same Pat Perez who is still thawing out from his last Open Championship, in 2008 at Royal Birkdale in England.
“I teed off at 6:44, it was blowing 50, it was about 4 degrees, and I shot 82,” Perez said. “I said, This is the last time I’m coming over here. It was the most miserable day I’ve ever had in my entire life.”
Yet he is going back to that part of the golf world. What gives?
The Dunhill Links, that’s what. Scheduled for Oct. 4-7 in St. Andrews and using a rotation of The Old Course, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns, The Dunhill Links features a hugely popular pro-am, and those who’ve played in it put it right up there with the famed AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
“I heard it’s incredible,” said Perez, who knows he may not get the weather he admittedly prefers (he’s a California kid who lives in Arizona), but there’s another slice of life that comes with the tournament and agrees with him.
“We’re going to have some fun, drink some wine, play some golf, play some great courses.”
A fan of the Pebble Beach and Bob Hope pro-ams, Perez entertained thoughts of the Dunhill Links and suggested it to his longtime partner in the AT&T National, Michael Lund, owner of Pandora Jewelry.
“The answer he gave me was, ‘I have the transportation,’ “ Perez said with a laugh. “I thought that was a fantastic answer, an immediate yes.”
Lund will rev up the private jet and fly over Perez and John Daly, and there doesn’t even seem to be much concern about the infamous weather, which can turn that time of year.
“I don’t care,” Perez said. “I’ll probably be hung over, and it will be a totally different deal for me. I’ll probably do better. It’s one of those trips where, I don’t want to say it doesn’t matter, but it’s not even like going over for the British. We’re going to have a great time.”
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A (BIG) NUMBERS GAME: Tiger Woods needs to earn just $193,300 to reach $100 million in career prize money.
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AND AT THE OTHER SIDE OF THE TEE BOX, NO. 628 IN CAREER MONEY: That would be Gary Christian, the 41-year-old Englishman who is one of the most fun stories of the year. The ultimate journeyman, Christian has done a little bit of everything in life, including a stint as a bartender back in England, but it’s this rookie season on the PGA Tour that has really been a charge.
Making the cut in 16 of 24 tournaments, earning $599,722, and qualifying for the first round of the FedEx Cup playoffs is light years from his minitour life, but it’s what happened Saturday at The Barclays that made Christian realize he was really in the big leagues.
He was paired with Woods.
And just how did that go?
“It was more than I imagined. It was an unbelievable experience. Tiger was an absolute gentleman, and I gained new-found respect for what he does on a week-to-week basis,” Christian said.
“To be the best player possible at all times and to have the expectations every single round and you’ve got the crowd giving you grief all the way around? He conducted himself just unbelievably.”
The conversation went from start to finish, which surprised Christian.
“I expected to say hello on the first tee and say thanks for the round at the end of the round. But seems on every hole (there were long talks). I was very, very pleasantly surprised.”
Christian said his other unforgettable rookie moment came at the Greenbrier when he played a practice round alongside Tom Watson.
“I was like a 12-year-old girl going to a One Direction concert,” Christian said.
(Huh? Thankfully, a Google search helped with that one. One Direction is a popular British-Ireland boy band.)
Christian, who shot 77 that day to Woods’ 72, came into The Barclays 111th in FEC points and moved only to 103rd, so he won’t advance to the Deutsche Bank Championship. Still, at No. 122 on the money list, he’ll have plenty to play for when the fall series starts Oct. 4 in Las Vegas.
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YET FURTHER PROOF WHY HE’S GENUINE: When it was suggested to Harrington that the ups and downs of this game come with the territory, he stopped a reporter and did a little editing.
“I really haven’t had too many downs, no,” Harrington said. “I’ve had some very big ups, but I would suggest I’ve had a really good time of it. So no ups and downs.”
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HE APPROVES: Things didn’t turn out so well on the golf course at Bethpage Black, but it wasn’t all bad news for Woods. On a positive note, he loved the trade with Boston that brought Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto to the Dodgers.
“Now that’s what I’m talking about. It’s nice to be the West Coast Yankees, isn’t it? Now I know what (caddie) Joey (LaCava) feels like every year.”
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IT’S POINTS, NOT DOLLARS: If the field at the Deutsche Bank Championship were based on the top 100 in money, Fredrik Jacobson, Andres Romero, John Mallinger and Chris Stroud would be there. But it’s not, of course, and each of those men sits outside the top 100 in FedEx Cup points.
The guy who’s the furthest down on the money list who is still in the playoffs? That would be Roberto Castro, 116th on the money list, but 80th in FEC points.
Nitpick and scratch your head, but give Castro credit. Sitting 100th in FEC points, he opened with a 76 at The Barclays and basically had one foot out the playoff door. But he came back with a Friday 67, added weekend scores of 69-71 and finished in a share of 24th to pile up 207.5 points.