If you thought the fall out from the fallout over pitchmark-gate at the 2003 Seve Trophy would scupper Padraig Harrington’s relationship with Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazábal, think again.
The Spanish maestro, 46, specifically mentioned the three-time major winning Dubliner in an audio interview with EuropeanTour.com, expressing his hope that the Irish star will rediscover his putting touch and win his seventh Ryder Cup cap in Chicago.
Asked by the Spanish media if he was worried that the friction between some European heavyweights (Westwood and McIlroy?) could cause problems at the Ryder Cup, he said: “I’m not worried at all. I had also problems with some players, but those problems were left behind as soon as Ryder Cup came. I hope they are mature enough, but if I see any friction I will let them know.”
Olazabl’s problems with Harrington appear to be a thing of the past. But the Dubliner - often compared with Bernhard Langer for his work ethic, attention to detail and never-say-die spirit - isn’t the only Irishman who impresses Olazábal.
The two-time Masters champion describes Graeme McDowell, the hero of the 2010 matches at Celtic Manor, as “a pitbull” and a modern day Ian Woosnam, who never lets his prey go when he bites.
Olazábal knows his side faces a major examination at Medinah. So it’s little wonder he wants to see granite tough Irishman like Harrington and McDowell make his side.
Assessing his potential team with just over four months of the Certain that Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood and Luke Donald will be in Medinah in September.
But he also hopes that Harrington and Graeme McDowell can make his team and become the 2012 version of former diehards Bernhard Langer and Ian Woosnam.
Ollie said: “We have a lot of players well ranked in the World Rankings. Some of them will have no problems making the team - guys like Rory, Luke and Lee.
“Peter Hanson has done extremely well this year and has a great chance of making the team. He is pretty much in.
“I would like to see some players that I think can be a great asset to the team like Ian Poulter, Paul Casey or Padraig Harrington doing well from here to September.
“Padraig has shown signs of improvement and I know he is still not putting as well as he would like but he has a few months ahead. I think all those guys should be pretty much in the team.”
Olazábal respects Harrington as a three-time major winner and he’s made no secret that he wants a team of fighters when he takes on the Americans on US soil.
Asked by Spanish website Ten-Golf.es for two fantasy captain’s picks from his former Ryder Cup team mates - excluding Seve Ballesteros - Olazábal said: “I’d go for Woosnam and Langer.
“Langer for his efficiency. Being German, he found it difficult to show his feelings but he was always very close to his team mates and he gave his all in every match. Under pressure he was very cool, he could really handle pressure well.
“I’d have Woosnam for pure character. He was all heart, like McDowell today. He gave his all. Even though he was small, he hit the ball really well and had lots of heart and character. He didn’t care who he was playing, he was always ready to go out and win.”
The two time Masters champion could have been describing Harrington and McDowell instead of Langer and Woosie.
Harrington has been described as the Irish version of Langer for his incredible attention to detail and his never say die attitude. But Olazábal also sees a lot of Woosie’s terrier-like determination in 2010 hero McDowell
Olazábal said: “McDowell is the kind of player that even if he is playing poorly he grabs you by the foot and doesn’t let you go until the 18th!”
Asked if Europe could recreate the Olazaba-Seve partnership with McDowell and Rory McIlroy, Olazábal said:”Rory is a long hitter and he could fight in any match without finding fairways, but the preparation of the course will be a deciding factor. If we search for a Seve-like style, perhaps we should look in the American team… Bubba, the Masters’ winner. Lee, Luke and Graeme are very consistent players… Perhaps Graeme McDowell is like Seve in terms of guts and character. It’s like a pitbull… When he bites, never let the fellow competitor off.”
Both Harrington and McDowell will return to action in The Players Championship at Sawgrass next week.
Olazábal is in action at the Spanish Open in Seville where Michael Hoey, Shane Lowry, Peter Lawrie, Damien McGrane, Gareth Maybin and Simon Thornton make up a six-man Irish challenge.