Colin Montgomerie won’t regret handing Pádraig Harrington a Ryder Cup wildcard if the Dubliner does half of what he’s promised to do at Celtic Manor.
Easily the most controversial of Monty’s three picks due to his erratic form and his dismal haul of just one point from the last two matches, Harrington appears determined to justify his selection by becoming a true leader on and off the course at Celtic Manor.
Convinced he can deliver for Monty, Harrington will be reflecting on the things he did well in 1999, 2002 and 2004 rather than the last two matches at the K Club and Valhalla.
“Obviously it hasn’t worked out for me in the last couple of Ryder Cups,” Harrington said when asked about his record. “But I will look back at the positive ones before that.”
Recalling 2004 would give any man confidence but Harrington, like Ian Poulter two years ago, will be motivated to prove that Monty made the right call in handing him his first wild card.
“Monty has picked me for my experience and of course, after getting a pick, you’re always going to be keen to do it justice,” Harrington said. “You’re always keen to have a good week but there’s a lot of stuff you could do behind the scenes as well that are important during the week. That’s every bit part of being in a team environment. You say the right things and do the right things and help people out as much as you can.”
Believing he must become more visible in the team room, Harrington confessed that he was one of he invisible men at Valhalla following Nick Faldo’s decision to leave players like Darren Clarke and Montgomerie on the other side of the Atlantic.
“I thought that was something that definitely was missing in the last Ryder Cup,” Harrington said tactfully. “As much as I tend to do things my way, I think I have to be a bit more giving this time round and actually make a conscious effort to seek players out and offer advice, rather than maybe letting them decide themselves if they want to come to me.
“But I won’t be doing anything off my own bat. While I have been talking to Monty and discussing different aspects, I think anything I’d say, I’d run it by him anyway. I’d talk through any thoughts I have with Monty.”
Harrington’s selection has been questioned on both sides of the Atlantic following a two-year winless streak, missed cuts in three of this year’s majors and his recent exit from the FedEx Cup.
But Europe’s three-time major champion has paid no attention to the critics and while he feels for wildcard rejects Justin Rose and Paul Casey, he believes he will produce the goods at Celtic Manor.
He said: “I’m pretty optimistic about my game. Obviously I was very disappointed last week to go out of the FedEx Cup. I got horribly on the wrong side of the draw and to come so close in the end – it was a pity.”
In trying to work out exactly what has gone wrong with his game since he captured the US PGA more than two years ago, he’s come to the conclusion that it’s all mental.
He explained: “Unusually for me, I’ve played better on practice days, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, than I have Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I’m usually the other way around.
“I’ve been trying to figure out why I haven’t been carrying my practice days onto the golf course – whether I’m trying too hard or maybe being hard on myself or being grumpy or not patient enough or not enjoying it enough.
“Even when I’ve had my good performances, at times I’ve stagnated, which is another similar sort of sign.
“But I’m pretty happy now I think I know where I am with that. I’m keen to get back out on the golf course because I think I’ve the right balance between not over-trying and enjoying it out there.”