From Brian Keogh at Wentworth
Paul McGinley has put Padraig Harrington in the shade after leaving him in the dark for four months.
While Harrington was hailed as Ireland's biggest export since Guinness for his historic Irish Open win, pal McGinley was about to reveal a Ryder Cup secret he'd been sitting on since February.
The Dubliner’s shock appointment by skipper Nick Faldo has completely overshadowed Harrington’s bid for a €1 million bonus if he can complete a rare Irish Open - PGA Championship double at Wentworth this week.
And while Harrington is delighted for his friend and long-time sparring partner, he confessed that he hadn’t a clue that it was coming.
Still exhausted after his Adare Manor triumph, Harrington said: “I knew nothing until my wife told me yesterday. But I definitely think Paul has all the credentials needed. He’d bring a good balance to the team definitely.
“It’s a good choice by Faldo. Jose Maria Olazabal is obviously passionate. McGinley’s passionate but probably doesn’t show it as much as Ollie. I think between the three of them there’d be a good balance there.”
Ryder Cup veteran Colin Montgomerie and Irish tour stars Peter Lawrie, Damien McGrane and Graeme McDowell were also taken by surprise by the McGinley bombshell.
Monty said: “It leaves Paul with a little bit of a quandary, doesn’t it. Would you have it in the back of your mind as a player that it’s a little bit of an insurance policy?”
And McDowell was also confused, adding: "Paul and Ollie are two guys who could still make their way onto the team so I am very surprised. Ollie is ranked 26th in the world at the moment so what is going on?”
Lawrie was delighted for McGinley, but added: “I thought Nick would want to go for more someone more senior and with a lot more experience - an older statesman and not guys that can still earn automatic selection.”
And McGrane was also amazed at McGinley’s nomination, pointing out that it could affect his focus when the race for qualifying points starts in September.
The Kells man said: “It is going to be a huge distraction in some shape or form. He will be playing golf thinking, 'Am I playing golf to be on the team or am I playing golf to be picking the team?'
“Maybe it is a couple of years too early for Paul. Maybe four years too early. I would certainly back Paul to play another Ryder Cup or two.”
But McGrane also had words of praise for Harrington, adding: "I am Padraig's biggest fan. I think he is Ireland's greatest export. I am better off because of Padraig Harrington. Peter Lawrie, Darren Clarke, Paul McGInley - we are all better off because he is a great ambassador for Ireland and Irish golf."
Harrington joked that it felt good to be bigger than Guinness.
But he is more worried about getting himself right for his week’s major championship flavoured BMW PGA, where he will partner Vijay Singh and Paul Casey for the first two rounds.
And while he could pocket a €1 million bonus from Adare Manor for the double, Harrington admits that he would happily part will this week's €750,000 first prize in exchange for a title that has not been won by an Irishman since 1958.
He beamed: “There you go, now you’ve got a 49 year duck on me guys. Maybe that’s what works for me.”
The significance of ending a 25-year wait for a home winner of the Irish Open was brought home to Harrington by a mobile phone call he received from President Mary McAleese on Sunday
But the call also brought home the enormity of his achievement and what it means for the future of the Irish Open.
He said: “I assumed they got the winner they wanted. It’s exactly the gamble that Tom Kane took. It came off and now, let’s hope we get a bigger tournament next year.
“I’m chuffed. I’m very proud of the fact that I’ve gone into a tournament as favourite and have gone on and played my way through it.
“That’s much harder a task than winning a big event after coming in under the radar. It’s always much harder to win one when you are expected to do it at the start of the week.”
Winning the BMW PGA on a course that Singh and Els have described as US Open is a tall order on a course that has been toughened up by Ernie Els.
Still exhausted after Adare, Harrington confessed: “I’ve to try and get through today first. But I’m delighted with my late tee time tomorrow. Someone was smiling on me there.”