Harrington gives Monty his vote of approval

Padraig Harrington believes Colin Montgomerie would make an ideal Ryder Cup captain at Celtic Manor in 2010.

After firing a third round 68 that still left him a formidable eight strokes behind Ryder Cup team mate Paul Casey in the Abu Dhabi Championship, the Dubliner explained that appointing the Scot for the matches in Wales would give Europe the best chance of regaining the trophy.

Harrington said: "I would be all for Monty taking the captaincy. We have to put our best foot forward and I believe he is the man for the job. I am a little bit surprised that he is prepared to give up his chance of making the team and that is taking a lot of commitment from him. But as a player who is potentially going to be in the team I would like to see him as captain and that would give us the best chance of winning in Wales. 

"It is a little bit unfortunate for Sandy but I think the majority of the players on tour, anybody younger than my generation, don't really know Sandy. Only one guy on the team was older than me the last time around. They would probably be very familiar with Monty but don't know Sandy. It is unfortunate because he does deserve the job."

There appears to be a growing body of opinion on the European Tour that the Ryder Cup captain must be in touch with the current crop of players.  And while Mongtomerie might not be the most popular man amongst his contemporaries after a series of controversial rules incidents over the years, Harrington sees him a man in touch with both the younger generation and the established stars who will be bidding for places on the team next year.

Harrington explained: "Monty is quite good off the golf course. IHe is always interesting, he has always got an opinion and he has always got something to say. I think most of the younger players can relate to him. He's around and as everybody knows, you have to move away from him on the range, he talks so much. 

"While he is a tough competitor on the golf course, I think the younger guys and certainly the guys who are in contention for the team, we all get on with him. He is an interesting person. Sit down and have a chat with him and you will be entertained for half an hour. "

Montgomerie could only manage a third round 70 that left him 12 stokes behind runaway leader Casey, who fired a nine under par 63 to lead by four strokes from defending champion Martin Kaymer on 19-under par.

Harrington hit a bogey free 68 to share eight place on 11 under while Rory McIlroy's hopes of landing his maiden win ended when he carded a disappointing one under par 71 to trail Casey by nine shots.

Four strokes behind Richard Green and Graeme Storm at halfway and three adrift of Casey, Harrington feared that one of the leaders could leave the field for dead with a low round. And that's exactly what happened as Casey fired nine birdies in a sensational round, missing just one green in regulation and taking just 26 putts.

"A 68 is a reasonable return," Harrington said. "But there was always a danger when I was a little bit off the lead that some of the leaders could move forward, a bit like Paul Casey.

"If the guys up there could shoot six or seven under there was a chance they could run away. I am happy with 68 - the first bogey free round of the year - but there is a lot of work to be done tomorrow."

Asked if his winning  back nine performances in last year's Open and US PGA would be a help to him, Harrington smiled.

He said: "Not very much at all. Tomorrow I am going to have to come out and play the back nine well. What I did on the back nine in the two majors is good. I was in the lead or close to the lead or thereabouts. I need to do more of the firing of birdies early on and be more freewheeling at that stage. 

"There will be very little pressure on me going out there tomorrow. I have to open up and see if we can get somewhat into contention. But it looks like it wll be mainly in Paul's hands. 

"He is a dangerous player when he does get on a run like this. We have seen him run away from fields in the past. He is one of those players the game comes easy to when he is hot. He is not the sort of guy I want to be six shots behind going into the last round."

Harrington is focussing on knowing the rust off his game before the Masters and has another six tournaments in the US to ready for Augusta, where he wil be attempting to land the third leg of the so-called "Paddy Slam.

He said: "I had eight weeks off and I spent six of those working quite hard on my game. Even at the end of last season I was starting the work in the gym. I am sort of mixed up in the sense that I have done quite a lot of week and I am here this week to see where it has brought me. 

"There are a lot of shots that I am hitting that are out of sync because of the practice and the sort of work I have done over the winter. This is a great week for me to come down and get perfect facilities and guage where my game is at.

"I like some of the stuff I see and I realise that eight weeks off never does me the world of good in terms of my competitiveness and my mental game and routine. Some issues have to be cleared up before the season really gets going for me. 

"I am playing again in three weeks' time and I will probably be in the same mode after another few weeks practice. By the time the Masters comes around I will hopefully have it all cleared up. 

"The start of the season always builds up to the Masters and I am playing another six events before then. So hopefully  through those six events I will get whatever I want to get sorted, sorted out."