He’s got other plans, of course, but Padraig Harrington doesn’t rule out accepting a vice-captain’s role at September’s Ryder Cup.
The six-time Ryder Cup star admits he’s “behind the 8-ball” in his qualifying bid after toppling from third to 93rd in the world rankings and needs to make a “quantum leap” in terms of results if he’s to qualify automatically for Jose Maria Olazabal’s team.
Making that side from his current position of 93rd in the world rankings is a tall order as he will not pick up what he describes as “easy” world ranking points in events such as the first two WGC’s of the season un Tucson and Miami and other elite events such as the Volvo World Match Play in Europe.
Winning this week’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am is all but a must for Harrington if he wants to continue and unbroken run of appearances in the Accenture Matchplay going back to 2000. The cut of is Sunday night and while a top-two might be enough to squeeze into the world’s top 65 (Phil Mickelson is skipping Tucson to spend time with his family), a win would be just what the doctor ordered for the 40-year old Dubliner.
In a long (50-minute) press conference at Pebble Beach, Harrington addressed a whole host of issue from his recent struggles, his desire to be Ryder Cup captain and his belief in the “inevitable” demise of belly putters to hisconviction that Tiger Woods will beat Jack Nicklaus’ haul of 18 major victories.
He hopes to be Ryder Cup captain himself some day but when asked if he’d take on a cheerleader’s role if he failed to make Olazabal’s side for Medinah, Harrington said: “I’m really focused on playing, definitely. But it would be interesting to be involved. There’s no doubt about it, being in the background, seeing what’s going on.
“I think anybody wants to be captain of the Ryder Cup team has to be vice captain a couple of times or at least once.”
Sergio Garcia was drafted into Colin Montgomerie’s back-room team as a cheerleading vice-captain when he failed to make the team at Celtic Manor in 2010.
And Harrington knows there is only one way out - he must start winning again.
“…in general, it’s going to just come down to me winning tournaments. I have a quantum leap to [make to] get into the team. It’s not one of those years that I’m going to just play nicely and gather points. Whether I win in the U.S. or win in Europe, you know, it will come down to just winning.”
The transcript of Harrington’s press conference ran to 8,651 words compared to 4,350 words for US Ryder Cup skipper Davis Love and 3,764 word for last week’s Waste Management Open victim Spencer Levin, the other players called to press centre yesterday.
Here’s a summary ––
On his work with new coach Pete Cowen, he says it’s pretty straightforward:
I’m just trying to keep my shoulders connected more. That would be it. Just trying to keep my‑‑ it’s reasonably straightforward, trying to keep my shoulders packed, keep my scapulas in place. It’s the same way of trying to say the same thing, essentially staying connected with my shoulders.
The Ryder Cup merited a long response and while it’s now a very serious business and taken seriously nowadays by the US thanks to Europe’s revival, he revealed that there’s a lot of camaraderie:
I think years ago the conspiracy theories were carried off the course. Nowadays the players realize that, yeah, we’re out there trying to win, and we want everything, serious stuff on the golf course, but off the golf course, as you’ve seen the last couple of years, afterwards the players mix and things like that. I think even when I started playing, I don’t think we would have mixed afterwards. But nowadays they do.
He was back to a familiar theme when asked about his swing changes. He’s always made changes, he said but just got asked about them more often. The real problem has been in his head - the mental game:
There’s no naïvety in me. I’m not a kid out there. There’s no freshness to it. It just went a little stale. I probably took the eye off the ball, as in not realizing that was what had gone wrong, because all of a sudden I was thinking it must be something to do with all the technique or whatever, but it really was the other side of the game that wasn’t working, as well.
His 2012 schedule is up in the air due to his world ranking. The bottom line is that he’ll play wherever he can get the most world ranking points. The only week that’s off the schedule will come some time in spring:
My son is wanting me to go to his first holy communion, so that’s one week done, and I might add another in for that. But outside of that, it’s pretty much the same as other years, just go out there and try and win events in order to get the big points.
The belly putter issue is now a hot potato for the R&A and the USGA and Harrington, an ambassador for the Royal and Ancient, sees rule changes ahead:
It’s inevitable it’s going to get changed. I think the rules aficionados have a few other things. They have priorities and they understand when it comes to the rules of golf, it ain’t that easy just to go and change them all at once. So yeah, I think it’s becoming‑‑ like we had this conversation last year, I think a lot of‑‑ it certainly wasn’t anywhere near as high on the radar with the rules a year ago. They’re more concerned about the ball going far, the driver going far. I certainly tested some stuff for the R&A in terms of what they’re thinking about going forward with. I have no idea if I can tell it so I’m not going to say. But I definitely hear‑‑ and this is not true by connection with the R&A but just true in golf: There’s more players, there’s more officials focusing on the belly putter. I think you’ve got a couple of issues with the belly putter.
Tiger? He’ll break Jack’s record but the aura is no longer there:
You know, over the years I’m sure he came down the last hole in many tournaments just believing that he is going to birdie it, full stop, because it’s happened so many times. Maybe over the last 18 months it hasn’t happened, so that leaves a little bit of doubt the next time he’s in that position.
But he’s going to win plenty of tournaments. I’d be certainly‑‑ I’d be still backing him, as I said, to beat Jack’s record, absolutely. I think if he gets another five, motivation could hamper it. If he turns up and plays well, he’s going to win. He’s in the position that he knows his best game is a winning game. There’s other guys out there, their best game ain’t going to win them. His is still a winning game, but obviously he doesn’t have the fear factor and the dominance as much to do it every week. But he’s certainly going to win plenty of tournaments.
As for the 2016 Olympic Games, Harrington repeated his theory that players from Northern Ireland should declare for Team GB rather than Ireland if they in the top 15 in the world, ensuring more Irish participants in Rio. Essentially, Harrington argues that he is doing his Ulster brothers a favour by making their Olympic allegiance a logical rather than an emotional decision:
I was pointing out sort of they don’t have to make it because any decision they make, it’s the wrong decision. In four years’ time they’re going to have to make a decision, and there’s going to be people that are going to read so much into it.
We’ve seen it over the years. It’s amazing the amount of times we’ve played in the Dunhill Cup, and if one of our players wore the wrong color sweater, he was making a point. He was trying to make a political point. Come on. As I said, we hit little white golf balls very nicely, but that doesn’t make us capable of commenting on political matters. Or at least‑‑ we can comment in private and over dinner. I’m not saying we’re not capable of making it, but it doesn’t give us that right. It gives us a platform, but it doesn’t give us the right to make statements like that, and it’s wrong for those guys to be asked to do it.
There was a long chat about Greg Norman’s Masters loss to Nick Faldo and what it means to choke. Harrington recalled his amateur days and how outsiders can misinterpret a player’s inner feelings when it comes to choking.