News & Opinion

Harrington starts Ryder search this week

Harrington plans on playing with many of the players whom he doesn't know well

VIRGINIA WATER, England – European Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington named Sweden’s Robert Karlsson as the team’s first assistant captain on Wednesday at the BMW PGA Championship.

Though Karlsson’s selection was not a surprise, Harrington shared some insight about how he will select his team after the 2020 BMW PGA for the 43rd Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.

Padraig Harrington European Ryder Cup captain
European captain Padraig Harrington will enjoy a close-up view of some potential Ryder Cup candidates this week at the BMW PGA.

Harrington, 48, a three-time major champion from Ireland, has compiled a list of 20 or so players whom he wants to get to know in the next year. Among those relative unknowns will be potential Ryder Cup rookies, including Rory Sabbatini, a native South African and six-time winner on the PGA Tour who recently became eligible for the European team now that he is a citizen of Slovakia.

Harrington not only envisions players with no Ryder Cup experience on his team but, in the proper quantity, embraces their involvement.

“How do you get the atmosphere and buzz on the team?” Harrington said. “You need guys there just thrilled to be there and excited, and then the older guys who get the ability to help and manage a young player. That's the beauty of the Ryder Cup is to have rookies on the team.”

Harrington plans on playing with many of the players whom he doesn’t know well, not so much to judge their games but to evaluate them as individuals.

In 2014, European captain Paul McGinley knew in the summer of 2014 that rookie Victor Dubuisson of France likely would be paired with Graeme McDowell in foursomes at Gleneagles in the 40th Ryder Cup. So, McGinley made sure that the two were paired with each other during the season, to become better acquainted.

The Dubuisson/McDowell team won both of its foursomes matches as McDowell totaled three points and Dubuisson won 2½ in Europe’s 16½-11½ victory.

“Clearly, you wouldn't want to go in there with 12 rookies, and if nine rookies qualify, I'll be picking three experienced guys,” Harrington said. “So, we won't be going in with 12 rookies, but you want a nice mixture because the rookies have really made it for Europe over the years. Those are the guys that come out and they shine.”

Harrington has played in six Ryder Cups, winning four, and served as an assistant captain in 2014 and 2018, both winning years for Europe. He will be one of the most experienced captains in a rivalry in which the Europeans excelled in the past quarter century, going 9-3 since 1995 to cut the U.S. lead in the biennial series to 26-14-2.

So, he understands the need for players to compile their own schedules and to gain qualifying points in tournaments that suit them. Points begin to accumulate here this week and will conclude at next year’s BMW PGA.

“You've got to remember, though, when it comes to the Ryder Cup, the nine people that qualified are the only ones who wholeheartedly deserve to be there,” Harrington said. “If you don't qualify into the team and you're looking for a pick, well, there's other reasons that come into play, and it doesn't always mean that the 10th-best player in the game or in Europe will get picked.”

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