By Brian Keogh
Just a year after waking up to find the Claret Jug glimmering at the foot of his bed, Padraig Harrington enjoyed a hearty bowl of porridge, flipped open his laptop and perused the Ryder Cup rankings with a grin on his face.
Thanks to his second major victory, the Dubliner eased any fears about his Ryder Cup place when he soared to the top of the world points list and into the team for the fifth time.
And after digesting his breakfast and the latest standings, he was able to smile briefly at the challenge faced by those outside the automatic standings before turning his thoughts to leadership questions and the plight of Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie.
“The Ryder Cup is very entertaining once you are in the team and when you’re not it’s a tough process,” Harrington said. “Now I’m there, I can have a look and enjoy the next month and a half and see the guys play their hearts out to try and make that team.”
As a two-time major champion, Harrington is now one of the senior figures in the side but he is not totally comfortable in that role and yesterday hinted that should Montgomerie fail to make the side automatically, skipper Nick Faldo should earmark one of his Ryder Cup wildcards for the Scot.
Harrington said: “Now that I am in the team, I hope to tee it up with Monty. I look forward to that. I look forward to playing with anyone in the team but going back to the last few times I played with him, he would certainly be a pick of mine.
“He is a totally different man when it comes to the Ryder Cup and I don’t think there is any player who wouldn’t want to tee it up in a fourball or a foursomes with him and take on anybody in the world.”
A team man to the core, Harrington hinted that Faldo should put his public differences with Montgomerie aside and pick the Scot for the good of the European cause.
“The only result that counts is the team,” Harrington said. “I played so many teams as an amateur and I have never had any time for anyone who walks off a golf course saying they’ve played well, it doesn’t make any difference. The team is all that counts.
“A player can be winning all his matches but influences the team so negatively that they lose and vice versa, a player can be losing all his matches but says the right things that make all the difference for the team to win.
“There is much more behind the scenes in a team effort, it is very important to get a good balance in the team.”
As things stand, Sergio Garcia and Open Championship runner-up Ian Poulter are outside the ten automatic places for Valhalla.
But even with those players in the side, Harrington is Europe’s only major winner and he is becoming used to the expectations that have been heaped on his shoulders since he made his Open championship breakthrough last year.
Looking ahead to Valhalla, Harrington said: “I am becoming one of the elder statesmen and certainly the more experienced with major wins and things like that.
“I have always felt the type of player if someone wanted advice, I’d be there to help. And I have always felt like I have to give.
“Even in school, I’d be captain of teams but for some reason, like with the Ryder Cup, I’ve felt there are other people who get more out of it being in that position.
“I am quite happy that I can perform to my level regardless of my position in the hierarchal system whereas Monty clearly performs better by being a player captain.
“He clearly likes to be out front leading and doing his thing. I am the kind of person if you say you are playing number one or number ten or number seven I’d feel I would go out and put in the exact same performance.
“I think that’s my attitude. I wonder, maybe not this time, but I will certainly have to step up to the bat at some stage. Maybe take over that position. I’ve noticed over the last year, 18 months that I get far more respect from the players.
“Not that I didn’t get it all the time, but I notice there is a little bit more deference for what I have done in golf and there is an attitude of when I win it is kind of an expected thing, even with some of the texts I’ve got this week from other players.
“They nearly believed more in me than I did, and I am getting to the stage that they’re young enough that I could be the captain but I still think that’s Monty’s job if he shows the form he has in the last number of times coming in.
“He will be right up there for a pick and he is the elder statesman. I am just getting out of this situation of feeling like a kid myself as in one of the younger guys, maybe not this time round but in years to come I would feel more like a leader on the team.”
Currently 15th in the Ryder Cup Points List, Montgomerie would need a wildcard from Faldo, who is not a big fan of the Scot after they fell out during last year’s Seve Trophy in Ireland.
The English legend even joked at the Scot’s expense in a Ryder Cup related TV interview with the BBC last weekend.
Shown a list of possible Ryder Cup wildcards, which was topped by Montgomerie and followed by the names of Darren Clarke and Paul McGinley, Faldo sniped: “Well that’s a good list, but they are not in the right order!”
Harrington feels that it is not individuals but the team that counts and he has seen enough from Montgomerie and Open runner-up Poulter to convince him that they should be in the side.
Poulter is still outside the automatic top 10 qualifiers for the side, despite his brilliant performance at Royal Birkdale on Sunday.
But Harrington fully expects the flamboyant English ace - seventh in the world points list - to earn his second cap.
He said: “I think it's inevitable he will play his way in from here. He's shown he is a big-time player and that's the type you want in the Ryder Cup.”