Can Harrington lead Europe to victory in next weekend's Ryder Cup?

Can Harrington lead Europe to victory in next weekend's Ryder Cup?

PADRAIG Harrington will have to stop the series of home wins if he is to be recognised as one of Europe’s fabled Ryder Cup captains.  

In modern times, the Ryder Cup has become one of the world’s biggest sporting events and will, once again, capture the attention of millions when Europe and America face each other this weekend in the 43rd edition at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.

However, in recent years, the result has become predictably one-sided in favour of the home team.

In the last 11 Ryder Cups, since 1997, there has only been two away victories, both by Europe, in 2004 at Oakland Hills in Michigan and in 2012 at Medinah which was branded a “miracle”.

Alongside his three major victories, if captain Harrington was to lead Team Europe to victory at Whistling Straits, his name would be cemented in European folklore, with this year’s Ryder Cup being one of the most challenging for Europe.

Not only are they facing a side who dominate the world rankings - with eight of the world’s top 10 being Americans - many of whom are multiple major champions in Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth. But they will also be confronted with an overwhelmingly American crowd in Wisconsin due to the current travel restrictions for Europeans entering the US. There will inevitably be some ex-pats who will attend the event, but they won’t amount to the 15 percent of Europeans who usually make up Ryder Cup attendances in America.

As such, Team Europe will be relying on those well versed with winning in the US in Rory McIlroy and Spain’s US Open champion, Jon Rahm, and also Harrington himself, who has won a major on American soil - the 2008 US PGA.

The links style features of Whistling Straits should help the Europeans but, as ever, much will rely on the pairings and making decisions under pressure, something Harrington has already been faced with when picking his wildcards.

European stalwarts, Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia, seemed destined to get two of the three wildcard places but Ireland’s Shane Lowry receiving one ahead of Justin Rose caused some contention.

While rookie Lowry performed well over the spring and summer – finishing in the top 10 of The Players Championship in March and the US PGA Championship in May – the lack of wins or, indeed, genuine challenges for tournaments since his 2019 Open win led some to question whether he was right to be picked over Rose, the Englishman who has played in five previous Ryder Cups and has a track record of winning individually in America.

Harrington put himself in this position with his choice to cut the number of wildcards from four to three meaning Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger qualified automatically through the points system ahead of Rose and Lowry, two players who are more proven on the big stage in America.

Time will tell whether that was the right move by Harrington in his quest to become a rare away winning captain in the Ryder Cup.

Live coverage of the Ryder Cup begins Friday 24th September at 1pm on Sky Sports Golf

Team Europe     

Jon Rahm (Spa)

Rory McIlroy (NIR)

Viktor Hovland (Nor)

Tommy Fleetwood (Eng)

Tyrrell Hatton (Eng)

Paul Casey (Eng)

Bernd Wiesberger (Aus)

Matthew Fitzpatrick (Eng)

Lee Westwood (Eng)

Sergio Garcia (Spa)

Shane Lowry (Ire)

Ian Poulter (Eng)

Team USA 

Colin Morikawa

Dustin Johnson

Bryson DeChambeau

Brooks Koepka

Justin Thomas

Patrick Cantlay

Daniel Berger

Harris English

Tony Finau

Xander Schauffele

Scottie Scheffler

Jordan Spieth