VIRGINIA WATER, England – Padraig Harrington is under no illusions about what captaining the 2020 European Ryder Cup team at Whistling Straits could mean to his career.
It could possibly damage his legacy. Maybe that’s why he took on the job with some “trepidation.”
The worst kept secret in golf was revealed in the Ballroom of the Wentworth Club, home of the European Tour and venue for the 1953 Ryder Cup match. Harrington takes over from Thomas Bjorn to lead Europe in two years’ time. We’ll need to wait two years for the golf’s second worst kept secret – that Lee Westwood will captain the 2022 European team to play in Rome.
In the meantime, Harrington knows only one result matters in Wisconsin.
“It does reflect on my career how this goes,” Harrington admitted. “When you’re a Ryder Cup captain you’re putting a lot of your history in the game, your legacy, on the line.”
Harrington, 47, was a member of Thomas Bjorn’s backroom staff at Le Golf National last year, his third time acting as a vice-captain after six appearances as a player. He another successful experience as member of a European side. He had success as vice-captain to Paul McGinley in 2014 before losing alongside Darren Clarke at Hazeltine in 2016. He played on four winning Euro teams, compiling a 9-13-3 won/lost/halved record.
He’s under no illusions that Whistling Straits will be an altogether different task.
“You’re trying to beat the U.S team away from home. They’re a great team and it’s not an easy task. I am aware it’s a win or nothing. That’s the way it goes. You go out there and win you’re a successful captain. You lose you’re not. It is daunting.”
Despite his trepidations, the Dubliner never seriously considered turning down the captaincy.
“I don’t think I ever thought I wasn’t going to do it, but I wanted to do it for the right reasons. I wanted to be clear that I didn’t just do this because it was the next thing to do in my career.”
Harrington is a good fit for an away match in the United States. The 2008 PGA Championship counts among his three major victories, and he has three other PGA Tour wins.
“It does fit nicely that I have played in the U.S. and I’m reasonably well known,” Harrington said. “The event is not too far from Chicago which has a nice Irish base. There’s a lot of good reasons for me being captain in the U.S. All of them should be good for the team in terms of support. Everything really lines up. I’m the right man for the job at this time.”
Whether that leads to Europe successfully defending the trophy won in France is another matter. Harrington’s legacy might just depend on the result.