News & Opinion

Donald bids for spot on Paddy’s team

HONOLULU – It may have seemed like a foregone conclusion that Padraig Harrington would be a Ryder Cup captain, but it wasn’t.

According to many writers who cover the European Tour, Harrington was in the mix, but the picture grew murkier as veterans such as Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell, Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter gained supporters.

By the time the Europeans were done whipping the Americans in the 2018 matches in France in September, Harrington had become the sound choice. Westwood cleared the way in October, saying that he would like to play in 2020 and that Harrington would be the ideal candidate.

Done and dusted, as they say in the Britain.

On Tuesday at European Tour headquarters near London, Harrington was named Europe’s captain for the 43rd Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wis.

Luke Donald
Luke Donald, who missed much of last year with a back ailment, hasn’t given up on making Europe’s team for the 2020 Ryder Cup.

“He always thinks things through, Paddy,” Luke Donald said as he prepared for this week’s Sony Open in Hawaii (tee times), his first PGA Tour event in nine months after a back injury. “He’s always got good answers and sometimes come from different perspectives.”

Harrington, 47, owns a wealth of experience as a player and assistant captain in the Ryder Cup. The three-time major winner played in six consecutive Ryder Cups, starting in 1999 at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., through the Europeans’ 2010 victory at Celtic Manor in Wales.

Harrington served as an assistant captain in the past three matches, including victories in 2014 at Gleneagles and last fall at Le Golf National near Paris.

“It’s possibly easier to be a Ryder Cup captain at home, but I realize it was good timing in my career,” Harrington said at a news conference in England. “I also realized that it probably was the best chance for me in an international setting, going to the U.S, having me as their captain at this time.”

Harrington, a six-time winner in 295 starts on the PGA Tour, is one of the most recognizable Europeans to compete in the U.S. He also carries plenty of credibility with his players on the other side of the Atlantic.

“He’s vocal now and again,” Donald said of Harrington in the team room. “I wouldn’t say overbearing, but certainly if he had something that was meaningful, he would step up and say it.”

Donald, 41, who has compiled a 10-4-1 record in four Ryder Cup appearances, served with Harrington last fall as an assistant to Thomas Bjorn. Donald, a former No. 1-ranked player in the world, has slipped to No. 625 but hasn’t given up hope of making the team.

“Well, I’m older, I’m fresh; I haven’t played in much in six months,” he said, smiling. “I just think me playing my game that I know I can play, I think it’s good enough to make that team. It’s as simple as that.”

Donald, who will be playing this year on a major medical extension, has 15 PGA Tour events to earn 335.891 FedEx Cup points to keep his PGA Tour card.

When asked whether he would entertain the idea of playing more in Europe to make the 2020 team, Donald smiled and said, “I’m open to play anywhere that would have me.”

Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: alex@morningread.com; Twitter: @AlexMiceli