Ireland’s Padraig Harrington is back in the spotlight – not as a player, but as captain of Team Europe in this month’s Ryder Cup at Wisconsin’s Whistling Straits.
Harrington, 50, a three-time major champion, will compete in the BMW PGA Championship, which begins Thursday at the Wentworth Club in England. There he will monitor how potential members of his team are performing.
After the tournament, he will choose three players to complete the 12-man roster that will play against the Americans. The other nine will have qualified on points.
The following conversation, which took place at the end of August, has been edited and shortened.
Can you tell us something about the BMW, the tournament and the course?
Wentworth is the traditional home of the European Tour. It really is a great tournament venue. You can score well on it, but when the pressure comes on Sunday, those tree-lined holes and out-of-bounds get a little tight.
How will you be able to focus on your own game this week?
Hopefully I can’t focus on my game. Maybe it will be a little break to be on the track.
How do you think the event will go due to Covid-19?
I’m actually interested in that. Will the fans be more excited because they’ve waited so long and there’s a certain level of, “Gosh, we’re happy to be here?” I suspect that because of Covid it may be more of a celebration of golf and the Ryder Cup than anything else.
I won’t ask you for your three choices, but do you have certain people in mind?
There are still three weeks to go and I am well aware that things can change, especially now that the BMW is such a big event. It would be pretty easy now, but three weeks is a long time in golf.
And you’re happy with three choices?
I chose three. They offered me eight choices when it was at the height of the pandemic. The reason I wanted three is because everyone who gets elected is under more pressure and stress because the media and the public are unsure whether someone else should be elected.
What do you think of Whistling Straits and how it fits your team?
It is very difficult for the Europeans to beat an American team on a stereotypical American golf course. Whistling Straits is a links style course. They opened it up as much as possible – I’m sure there will be a lot of birdies – but the elements [wind] will come into play.
You sound like you’re saying the Americans are the favorites?
To beat them in the United States will take a huge effort on our behalf, and we will certainly have to figure out how to make the collective more confident than the individual. They look like they are the strongest they’ve ever been.
Are you satisfied with your career or do you feel that you have not achieved as much as you thought?
I have achieved much more than I could have ever dreamed of in this game. I studied accounting. When I attended that school, my goal in life was to become an accountant and manage a golf course.
I was a good player, but I didn’t think I was good enough to turn pro. And even when I turned pro, my goal would have been to survive half a dozen years on tour and retire and get a good job at a country club.
How much more golf are you going to play?
I will try to play where I am competitive.
If I don’t feel like I’m competitive on the regular tour, I’m very happy to try and compete in the Champions Tour [a circuit for golfers 50 and older]. I will continue to play and do what I can around golf for years to come.