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Euro Captain Padraig Harrington gearing up for extra year at the helm and PGA Tour Champions in his future

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ORLANDO – Not long ago, Ireland’s Padraig Harrington sat down with his business manager to discuss a busy year ahead. In the past, his schedule always included three columns – one for PGA Tour events, one for European Tour events and one for personal appearances and charitable events. This year, there was a fourth column – PGA Tour Champions.

Harrington, who turns 50 on August 31, less than a month before he leads Team Europe’s effort to retain the Ryder Cup in the 43rd playing of the biennial competition against the United States, September 24-26.

“If you want to be successful on the Champions Tour, you have to do it when you’re young and once you go, you can’t go back,” he said.

But in the lead up to turning the big 5-0, Harrington’s focus is squarely on the Ryder Cup. He plans to play a full schedule, bouncing between the European Tour, where he expects to start the season in the Middle East, and the PGA Tour, where he was announced as the first sponsor invite to play the Waste Management Phoenix Open, February 4-7.

Steve Stricker, 2020 Ryder Cup U.S. team captain, and Padraig Harrington, 2020 Ryder Cup European team captain, share a laugh as they hold the Ryder Cup trophy at Whistling Straits on Oct. 1, 2019. Photo: Mike De Sisti/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via USA TODAY Sports

“Early year I’m going to play some golf myself. I need to build relationships with my players, not so much the senior players that I know,” he said. “Try to show my face and build relationships so I have the trust of the players, especially the young players.”

Harrington, who won a total of three majors in 2007 and 2008 and collected six PGA Tour titles and another 15 on the European Tour, isn’t quite ready to sail off into the sunset. He said he’ll evaluate his game over the next eight months before making a decision about where to play the bulk of his golf.

“If I think I can only finish 15th in a regular event, I’m not turning up. I want to compete and to win,” he said.

But Harrington didn’t sound confident he could follow in the footsteps of major winners Jim Furyk and Phil Mickelson, who made a seamless transition this year winning in their senior circuit debut. “I don’t think my strengths are that well suited for the Champions Tour,” Harrington said. “You’ve got to be 20 under par for three rounds.”

As for the Ryder Cup, Harrington is convinced that the right decision was made to postpone the competition for a year, giving him an extra year at the helm of Team Europe.

“Back in March-April we put in place the best estimates of trying to get ready for the Ryder Cup and we put a lot of work into it behind the scenes,” he said. “By the end of April, start of May you could see that it really wasn’t a possibility. It was impossible. In hindsight, it has shown to be the right decision. We’re all happy to wait for a year. I’m looking for some rookies to have an extra year. I think it will be a benefit for my team.”

Harrington has spoken often that he believes Whistling Straits, site of the 43rd Ryder Cup in Wisconsin, is a links-style venue that the European side may feel right at home playing as he attempts to become just the fifth European captain to lead his squad to victory on American soil.

If the Official World Golf Ranking is any indication, the U.S. squad should field the more talented team – Americans currently count 12 of the top 20, compared to just six Europeans. But the Ryder Cup has proven time and again to be much like a matchup of bitter arch-rivals where records are thrown out the door and anything can happen.

“It would be incredibly disadvantageous to play at Hazeltine (2016 site) or Valhalla (2008 host),” Harrington said. It is a big advantage for Americans to play a traditional U.S. golf course – big, fast, wider – Hazeltine you have to make eight-nine birdies a round. We’d struggle to win in those conditions. That’s why it was called ‘the Miracle at Medinah (2012).’ I think Whistling Straits is a more neutral site.”

Time will tell if Harrington can assemble a winning side and if he can make one more run at his first PGA Tour win in more than five years. He still believes he has the game to do so.

“I’m hitting it farther and straighter than I ever have,” Harrington said.

original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2020/12/22/ryder-cup-captain-padraig-harrington-pga-tour-champions/

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