Harrington ‘names’ Donald as Ryder Cup vice-captain and rules out getting 12 picks

2020 Ryder Cup captains Steve Stricker and Padraig Harrington (right)
European Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington says the match against America may have to go ahead without fans – even though the idea is unpopular with some of his big name players

RYDER Cup captain Padraig Harrington has unintentionally named Luke Donald as a vice-captain for the 2020 Ryder Cup.

Harrington confirmed two things about his plans for Whistling Straits – if the biennial clash with the Americans can go ahead in September – in a TV interview with Sky Sports.

But while the European team captain insisted he will not be having 12 picks in response to the vastly changed PGA and European Tour schedule for the rest of 2020, he did not mean to announce publicly one of his picks for vice-captain at Wisconsin.

Harrington made the revelation he intends to have Luke Donald as a vice-captain for the 2020 Ryder Cup when speaking to Sky Sports’ Golf Show, talking to Sarah Stirk and Jamie Spence.

Harrington said he has been discussing his plans including tactics, logistics and golf stats with key members of his backroom team on a regular basis.

He then let it slip that Donald would be again be a vice-captain – a role he filled for Thomas Bjørn at Le Golf National in 2018 – earning wide acclaim on the European side as the USA were routed.

Harrington also said he agreed with the likes of Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy that playing without fans would take away much of the spectacle.

But the Irishman, who won back to back Opens and the USPGA at Oakland Hills four years after he helped Europe win the 2004 Ryder Cup at the Detroit course, has warned the Ryder Cup may HAVE to be played behind closed doors.

“None of the players want to have a Ryder Cup without the fans,” said Harrington, who said at the start of last month he believed the Ryder Cup would not go ahead off if fans were unable to be at Whistling Straits because of the coronavirus pandemic spreading across the USA in April.

“It’s an option that nobody wants to take, and the players don’t want it, Harrington told Sky.

“But we might have to take one for the world team of sport and put an event on that people can watch.

“It wouldn’t be the same for us, obviously, but it’s sport on TV that we’re all craving.

Whistling Straits will host the 2020 Ryder Cup
Padraig Harrington says he needs to be prepared as is he was playing the Whistling Straits course by Lake Michigan in the 2020 Ryder Cup – which may have to go ahead without fans

‘I need to be prepared as possible’

“If we see any live sport right now, we’d all be sitting at home watching it,” Padraig said.

“Clearly, nobody wants to play a Ryder Cup behind closed doors.

“But they’re keeping a prudent eye on it because they know that, if the PGA Tour events in June go well without the fans, it’s a possibility.”

Europe’s top two ranked players – Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm – have said the Ryder Cup will lose much of its appeal from the players’ viewpoint if it is played behind closed doors.

Irishman Harrington, who won three out of six Majors played between the 2007 Open at Carnoustie and the USPGA the following year, says he is determined to “be as prepared as possible” for a trip to Wisconsin in just over four months’ time.

“I’m trying to prepare every day like I’m going to play the Ryder Cup. It might not be a normal Ryder Cup in September, but I need to be as prepared as I can be,” said the 48-year-old.

“I’ve spoken to Guy Kinnings (Ryder Cup director) this week, I spoke to Luke, one of my vice-captains, yesterday, and I talked to the stats guy today because I’ve sat down to look at how my team would look if I had to pick it now.”

Harrington has so far only named Robert Karlsson as a vice-captain, but is expected to have four or five in total. Thomas Bjørn used Karlsson, Graeme McDowell, Lee Westwood, Donald and Harrington.

EUROPE’S 2020 Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington accidentally named Luke Donald as a vice-captain
Padraig Harrington who unintentionally announced he intends to have Luke Donald as a vice-captain at the Ryder Cup in September. Picture by GETTY IMAGES

‘I won’t get 12 picks’ says Harrington

PADRAIG Harrington does not think he will need a one-off change of selection policy, allowing him to pick all 12 European players – because of the cancellation of the first here majors of 2020 which would have a big say on who would fill the top nine qualifying positions.

“I’m not getting 12 picks, that’s for sure,” said Harrington, live on The Golf Show on Sky Sports News, on Tuesday, having floated the idea at the start of April.

Harrington, who made his Ryder Cup debut in the infamous Battle of Brookline defeat in 1999, said: “The Tour have been very reasonable.

“They did the numbers on it, I asked for a few situations to do more numbers, and they presented that to the tournament committee to have a look.

“It’s not just reasonable, it’s actually quite fair whatever option I’ll have in terms of picks.

“It’s kind of irrelevant how many picks I get. The difficult pick is always going to be 11 and 12.

“Even if I had six picks, the last two would be the most difficult and they’re the ones that are usually more controversial.

“It’s not a huge deal in terms of how many picks I end up with, because it’ll come down to two people at the end.

“But it’s fair, and anyone that has played well, will be well looked after in this system, and there will still be room for manoeuvre for some players who haven’t played their way into the team so far.”

“I know the different models that are in place depending on when we get back to playing, so I’ll have a little look at that.

“I’m very happy with how the team is shaping up, but I’d certainly like to see some form before I have to make those picks.”

He is likely to name at least one vice-captain at the same time or shortly after the team is picked in early September.

Padraig Harrington, Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood celebrate winning the 2002 Ryder Cup at The Belfry. All three have been a vice-captain for Europe
Harrington (left) celebrates victory at The Belfry with Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood. Picture by STUART FLETCHER

Harrington teams won four of six Ryder Cups

HARRINGTON was one of just three Europeans to win their Sunday singles match as the Americans came back from 10-6 down to win by a point, in Boston.

He has played in six Ryder Cups – including in 2002 at The Belfry, the last time the event was postponed after the 9/11 attack on New York.

Harrington ended up on the winning team in four of them, winning 101/2 points in 25 matches.

The Dubliner’s last appearance was in Colin Montgomerie’s team at Celtic Manor in 2010.

Harrington was a vice-captain in 2014, 2016 and 2018, and became the third pro from Ireland and Northern Ireland to lead Europe in the Ryder Cup after Paul McGinley (2014) and Darren Clarke (2016).

As well as his three Majors, Harrington has 12 other European Tour wins to his name – the last at the 2016 Portugal Masters.

He also has three regular PGA Tour wins to his name and two more on the Asian Tour as well as a win in Japan.

He was named Europe’s 2020 Ryder Cup captain in January 2019.

Rory McIlroy, winner of the 2014 USGPA Championship at Kiawah Island
Rory McIlroy who won the 2014 USPGA at Kiawah Island – scene of a famous Ryder Cup defeat for Europe back in 1991’s War on the Shore

Rory McIlroy: Without fans it won’t be the Ryder Cup

RORY McIlroy told the BBC two weeks ago that the Ryder Cup should be postponed until 2021 rather than be played in September without fans.

“A Ryder Cup without fans is not a Ryder Cup. It wouldn’t be a great spectacle, there’d be no atmosphere.

“So if it came to whether they had to choose between not playing the event or playing it without fans, I would say just delay it a year and play it in 2021.”

“Obviously it would be better for the Europeans to play without fans because we wouldn’t have to deal with some of the stuff you have to put up with, but at the same time it’s not a Ryder Cup,” added McIlroy.

It is nearly 21 years ago that US fans upset both Jose-Maria Olazabal and Colin Montgomerie during the Sunday singles in the Battle of Brookline with abuse that brought condemnation from European captain Mark James.

If the Ryder Cup as pushed back to 2021 and then played again in 2023 it would allow Italy – one of the countries worst affected by the COVID-19 pandemic – an extra year to prepare for hosting the event, said McIlroy.

The Northern Ireland golfer has four Majors to his name, but has not won one since the 2014 USPGA at Kiawah Island.

The South Carolina course was also the scene of more unsporting behaviour by US fans and players in the “War by the Shore.”

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