Golf: Padraig Harrington takes Ryder Cup captaincy for Europe with some trepidation

Padraig Harrington also played in six successive Ryder Cups from 1999 to 2010, helping Europe to four victories.
Padraig Harrington also played in six successive Ryder Cups from 1999 to 2010, helping Europe to four victories.PHOTO: REUTERS/ACTION IMAGES

WENTWORTH, England (REUTERS) - Ireland’s Padraig Harrington will captain Europe at the 2020 Ryder Cup with pride and some trepidation after being appointed on Tuesday (Jan 8), less than four months after helping the team to a crushing victory over the United States in Paris.

The three-times major winner had been the clear favourite to succeed Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn for the defence at Whistling Straits, Wisconsin, after having served as vice-captain at the last three Ryder Cups.

Harrington, who won back-to-back British Opens in 2007 and 2008 before going on to win his third major at that year’s PGA Championship, also played in six successive Ryder Cups from 1999 to 2010, helping Europe to four victories.

“You could look at this as being a natural progression – you move on from player to vice-captain to captain – but it’s not something I take on without a certain amount of trepidation,” the Irishman told a news conference at the European Tour’s headquarters.

“We’re going to a new venue, it’s an away match, and we’re going to have on average three more rookies coming into the team,” he added.

“Having won three majors, I’ve done a lot in my own personal career, but I know taking on the Ryder Cup captaincy is a different thing and a different level. I’m really conscious that I have to find that edge and add to it.” 

Harrington, the third Irish captain of the Europe team in the last four stagings of the match, said he had a busy 18 months ahead and intended to make his captaincy a mix of all those he had served under.

“I’ve learned from all of them,” he said. 

“I’ve actually learned a lot more as vice-captain than you do as a player. As a player you are very one-dimensional about doing your thing and getting on with performing.

“I will definitely take bits from all of them.” 


Paul McGinley successfully captained Europe at Gleneagles in 2012, while Darren Clarke lost out on American soil at Hazeltine in 2014. McGinley and Clarke were among those in a five-man committee to select the captain for Whistling Straits.

The Irishman became the favourite after England’s former world number one Lee Westwood, one of the five European vice-captains in 2018, indicated a preference to do the job in Italy in 2022 when Rome hosts the event.

Management continuity is widely seen as one of the factors in Europe’s recent success, the team winning nine of the last 12 biennial contests.

Each new captain is appointed after having generally worked as a vice-captain, often for more than one event – an approach that contrasts to that of the Americans who often seem to be starting their planning afresh each time.

Harrington did not pretend that his appointment had come as a surprise, given that he is an experienced hand on the Wisconsin course, which hosts the Cup from Sept 25-27 next year.

He played the PGA Championships there in 2004, 2010 and 2015 and Chicago, with a sizeable Irish population, is within easy reach.

“I’m the right man for the job at this time,” he said.

“But just because it seems to be my turn, it’s not something I just walked into... It’s something I did think long and hard about,” he added.

“You are putting it on the line when you become the Ryder Cup captain. It is a different element to your career. We know a successful captain is great and a losing captain, it’s his fault.” 

The 47-year-old has not won a European Tour title since his Portugal Masters triumph in 2016 but came close at the Czech Masters last August, finishing second in what was his best performance of the season.

Bjorn’s side put on a ruthless display while outplaying the United States in a 17.5-10.5 victory at Le Golf National in September last year.