Padraig Harrington must win this week’s US PGA at Kiawah Island to avoid a nervous wait for another Ryder Cup wildcard.
The triple major winner, 40, could only finish tied 19th in the Reno-Tahoe Open and goes into the final major of the season knowing that only victory will be good enough if he’s to make a seventh successive Ryder Cup appearance in Chicago next month.
The world No 63 says he’ll be “completely disappointed” if he fails to make it but knows that he only has himself to blame.
Speaking at the Open last month, Harrington said: “There’s seven events where there are guaranteed World Rankings points for turning up and I was in none of the seven.
“So it’s my own fault for not playing well enough last year. If you’re not qualified for all the events, it’s hard to make it up, especially if you don’t win. That’s what I haven’t done is win.”
Harrington was in a promising position with 27 holes to go in Reno but his title challenge fizzled out eventually as JJ Henry took the modified stableford event.
“Close all day, but couldn’t get it in the hole, which is a pity,” Harrington said on Saturday night. “You obviously need to make the birdies out there. Maybe I’m saving them all for tomorrow.”
Maybe he’s saving them for the US PGA, where he will bid to become the first repeat major winner Phil Mickeleson won the 2010 Masters. But he will need to improve on the greens after finishing 69th in the “strokes gained-putting” stats last week.
The Dubliner can’t earn enough cash to qualify as one of the leading five from the European Points List as he is 1,262,725 points outside the top 5 with only just over one million points on off for the winner of the US PGA.
And as he trails old rival and 10th ranked Sergio Garcia by 58.95 ranking points in the World Points List, he has zero margin for error in South Carolina this week.
The winner gets 100 world ranking points, which would catapult Harrington straight into the team. And while a long runner up would get 60 world ranking points, Harrington would need to finish second and hope Garcia misses the cut to go past the Spaniard into an automatic qualifying berth.
Even then he could be bumped out by another rival ahead of him on the World Poinst List and that could be forced to play in next week’s Wyndham Championship.
His only alternative, in the event that he finishing solo second and looks in danger of being overtaken, would be to play the week after the PGA and/or skip the first event of the FedEx Cup play-offs, The Barclays, and head for Scotland for the final counting Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles.
That’s highly unlikely and with skipper José Maria Olazábal waiting until after The Barclays to name his two wild cards, Harrington could still make a case for a pick with a FedExCup win at Bethpage Black.
Harrington got a wildcard from Colin Montgomerie two years ago but warned in March that he needed to a big year to make the team on merit this time.
He said: “For me to qualify for the team, I am going to have to have a big year and that’s it. I am going to have to go and win tournaments.”
He simply hasn’t delivered despite top 10 finishes in the Masters and the US Open and his putting does not look Ryder Cup proof right now.
While Harrington has his back the wall, Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell are guaranteed their places in the side to face the USA at Medinah from September 28-30.
And McIlroy certainly looked close to his best again after shooting rounds of 70-67-67-68 to finish five shots behind winner Keegan Bradley in joint fifth at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron on Sunday.
Denied by a cold putter, McIlroy said: “It was a decent week. I had a lot of chances out there today, but played solid, 68 in those conditions was good. Nice bit of confidence going into next week.
“I played very solid from tee to green, gave myself a lot of chances which was good to see because my greens in reg had been down the last few weeks and to get that up again is very encouraging.”
McIlroy, McDowell and Harrington are joined at Kiawah Island by Darren Clarke and Michael Hoey, who finished 71st in Akron after recovering from a poor opening 36 holes with rounds of 70 and 72.