Padraig Harrington, one of Team Europe’s Vice Captains, is introduced during the opening ceremony for the 2018 Ryder Cup at Le Golf National. (Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
By John Huggan
To the surprise of absolutely no one, Padraig Harrington will captain the European team that will defend the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in 2020. At a press conference on Tuesday held in the clubhouse at the Wentworth Club just outside London—next door to the European Tour’s headquarters— the three-time major champion was unveiled as the successor to Thomas Bjorn.
The third Irishman to lead the Old World side after Paul McGinley and Darren Clarke, Harrington was a racing certainty to be offered the job as soon as main rival Lee Westwood announced that he would not be a candidate until the 2022 matches in Rome.
The announcement comes less than a week after Harrington revealed he suffered a broken wrist in December that will prevent him from playing until at least February. Harrington is using a one-time exemption for being in the top 50 on the career PGA Tour money list in order to secure playing privileges in 2019 in the U.S. and hopes to return to play at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am next month.
Suffice it to say, Harrington’s credentials easily merit his selection. An assistant captain in the last three biennial contests and six-times a player between 1999 and 2010, he’ll bring a wealth of experience to his latest role, both on and off the course. Winner of the 2006 European Tour Order of Merit and the 2008 PGA Tour player of the year, the 47-year old Dubliner, a qualified accountant, is known as one of the most affable and quotable members of the professional golf fraternity. His interviews, whether one-on-one or surrounded by reporters, are legendary for their length and depth.
Harrington also will have the support of many leading players. Almost immediately following Europe’s victory at Le Golf National last year, Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose were quick to endorse the former Open and PGA champion’s suitability for the job.
“I’ve always thought Padraig would be a good captain in the United States,” McIlroy said. “He’s won a lot of golf tournaments over there.”
Rose was even more emphatic. Speaking at the British Masters only days after Europe’s ninth triumph in the last 12 matches, the former U.S. Open champion called Harrington “the clear front-runner.”
Bjorn, one of the five men (the last three skippers, a member of the European Tour tournament committee and chief executive Keith Pelley) charged with making this latest appointment, was equally glowing in his praise, even before the official announcement.
“I’ve always said when you’ve got somebody that’s a three-time major champion and has the pedigree that Padraig has and holds the respect of the players that he does, it would be difficult to see him not doing it at some stage,” Bjorn said. “And if he wants it this time around, it’s difficult to get around that he is very much the favourite to get the job.”
Well, Harrington did want it. He was indeed the preferred candidate. And now he is the captain.