By Brian Keogh
Heavy hitters Padraig Harrington and Colin Montgomerie have backed Paul McGinley's decision to resign as Nick Faldo's Ryder Cup vice-captain.
But Open champion Harrington was keen to point out that McGinley's shock resignation as an assistant for next year's clash with the US at Valhalla had nothing to do with the Seve Trophy.
As he prepared for his defence of the title and a 10th tee start at the scene of his Open triumph at Carnoustie today, Harrington revealed: "I've talked to Paul about it and he pulled out for the right reason.
"Paul needed to set his agenda out very clearly that he wanted to make the team but by having it in his head that he was going regardless as vice captain was going to hold him back.
"Paul is a golfer. He's not retired, he's a professional golfer and he's out competing. And anybody will tell you that anytime you set a goal, if you don't make it clear, it's not going to work.
"So he really needed to set his agenda out by saying 'I'm going to play my way in and it's not my goal to be there regardless.'"
McGinley refused to get involved in 'Faldo-gate' and whether the Ryder Cup captain had offered him a wildcard for last week's Seve Trophy and then taken it back when Simon Dyson finally confirmed his availability.
But he did take time out to shoot down a claim by Montgomerie that he had resigned from the European Tour Players Committee on Tuesday.
Prepared only to answer questions about his golf, McGinley rapped: "That is 100 percent false and Monty's got his wires crossed. I spent four-and-a-half hours at the meeting last night and I have not resigned from the committee."
Montgomerie believes McGinley was well within his rights to resign from the vice-captaincy and believes there are lessons to be learned from the entire episode.
Monty said: "The best selection we've had in the last ten years of a vice-captain was Thomas Bjorn, a month before the match at Oakland Hills in 2004.
"He was given an assistant captain's job and did a brilliant job under Bernhard Langer.
"That is when the assistant captains and vice captains should be selected, a month before the event, when we know the team and we know that certain experienced Ryder Cup players haven't made the team.
"There is very little a vice captain can do now to be honest. But I am sure that if Paul makes the team there will not be a difficult atmosphere in the team room, not at all."
While McGinley will partner "Twins Peaks" and "Sex in the City" star Harrington will return to action alongside JP McManus bidding for a third Dunhill Links victory that would make his the red-hot favourite to win the Order of Merit for the second year on the trot.
The Dubliner, 36, pulled out of last week's Seve Trophy due to injury and fatigue and while he confessed that he felt guilty when he saw the poor attendance on TV, he stands by his decision.
He said: "I did feel bad when I tuned in and watched it Thursday and Friday. But I do believe I made the right decision for me. Something was going to break and it was probably going to be me."
Ten weeks after lifting the Claret Jug at Carnoustie, Harrington is prepared for his return to the scene of his first major win today - from the 10th tee.
Asked about the prospect of returning to the infamous 18th hole, where he twice found water in the Open, he said: "It will be my ninth hole but I don't think I've ever walked to the 18th at Carnoustie and felt that good about hitting it out-of-bounds there against Stephen Dundas in the 1992 Amateur, so it's been a tough hole for me."
Harrington and McGinley form part of a seven-man Irish contingent with teenager Rory McIlroy making his debut in the event alongside South African horse trainer Mike De Kock in the same group as Lee Westwood and manager Chubby Chandler.
Graeme McDowell, Darren Clarke, Damien McGrane and Gary Murphy complete the Irish challenge.