Mickelson backs Harrington to bring "intangible" to Europe

Phil Mickelson fears that Padraig Harrington will be an inspirational figure for Europe this week.

The left-hander is a huge fan of Ireland’s three-time major winner and believes that skipper Colin Montgomerie has hit the jackpot by handing Harrington a wildcard.

That’s because the reigning Masters champion is closer to Harrington than he is to some of his own team mates and he has no doubt that the Dubliner will give Monty’s side an X-Factor that could make all the difference.

Bracing himself for some “Paddy Power” at Celtic Manor, he’s aware that Harrington has been a controversial but nonetheless inspired wild card choice by Colin Montgomerie.

“I think Padraig brings an intangible there. Everybody likes and respects him and I think that that intangible is going to be noticed in the team room when he gets all his players motivated and unified to compete.”

Mickelson helped Harrington win the Open at Birkdale two years ago when he loaned the Irish star a light therapy machine to treat his injured wrist.

The pair have known each other since the Walker Cup at Portmarnock in 1991 and they have forged a friendship that has become stronger over the years.

“I like Padraig a lot,” Mickelson said. “I think he is one of the nicest guys and he has become a very good friend of mine of over the years.

“He is one of my favourite people on tour and we go to dinner quite a bit and his caddie Ronan is every bit as much of a quality guy.”

But rather than cursing America’s luck that Harrington is playing this week, the Californian is happy that he’ll get a chance to take on one of the toughest competitors in golf. 

He said: “I’m really happy he’s on the team because even though he is such a great player and is going to be very tough to beat, he conducts himself with the sportsmanship and the professionalism that the Ryder Cup is all about.”

Harrington was in brilliant form when the practice sessions got underway on Tuesday, fleecing Ian Poulter and Ross Fisher to the tune of €450.

A while he confessed that he struggled yesterday, he knows that his role as a leader off the course is just as important as how well he hits the ball.

Determined to give 100 percent, Harrington said: “I’m definitely trying to do as much as I can.  I’m trying to talk to the rookies, especially the rookies, and try and give them as much advice as I can and give them as much confidence as I can. 

“I’m definitely much more pro-active about what I’m doing maybe than I would have in past years. 

“I want to make sure I give as much back as I can this week, both off the golf course and on the golf course.”

Montgomerie has singled out Harrington and Lee Westwood as his leaders on the course. But the Rathfarnham man is aware that he is being asked to fill some very big shoes.

He said: “I think being a leader on the golf course really requires your golf clubs to do the talking.  That’s where Monty was obviously fantastic at going head to head and controlling the situation. 

“His win against Scott Hoch at the Belfry in 2002 was worth easily more than a point to the team. 

“I was on the range watching and everybody got such a buzz on The European Team about how he started that match and carried on.

“It would be nice to play like that on the golf course and I’m definitely making an effort off the golf course and the team room just to give a little bit more.”

While he’s not so wild about being a wildcard, Harrington is up for the challenge and glad to be under pressure.

He said: “It obviously puts you under a little bit more focus during the week, and brings certain expectations and certain pressure. 

“So it’s certainly different.  It definitely makes you more enthusiastic and keen to play your part and do everything you can amongst the team.”