Pádraig Harrington insists he’s NOT the man to skipper a new generation of European stars in the 2018 Ryder Cup in Paris.
The Dubliner, 45, was one of Darren Clarke’s five vice-captains at Hazeltine National but while he hasn’t played in a Ryder Cup since 2010 and has fallen to 146th in the world, he says he’s determined to win his seventh Ryder Cup cap as a player at Le Golf National.
Asked if he’d like to take over as captain in two years’ time and become third Irish captain in a row after Paul McGinley and Clarke, Harrington said: “I want to play in 2018. That’s where I stand.”
Harrington is reluctant to go for the captaincy and bring his career to a premature end as he’s exempt on the PGA Tour next year and can avail of a career money exemption in 2018 and almost unlimited invitations until the end of the 2019 season, when he will be 48.
He might be ideally placed to take the job in 2022, when it goes to Rome but there’s also a chance that if the Italy bid hits organisational snags, JP McManus’ Adare Manor could step into the breach following its €100m revamp.
Sources close to Harrington have suggested that he’s reluctant to gamble with his playing legacy by taking on the toughest job in golf.
But with the 2020 event set for the Irish Course at Whistling Straits, there’s a chance he could still captain Europe at the age of 49.
A 2026 staging in Limerick (aged 55) would be his dream scenario but that's 10 years away.
It's clear from those on tour that Bjorn is more than keen to do the job in France but fears rivals will emerge from the woodwork at the last minute.
He's certainly well placed to take over a side that should be stronger than Clarke’s, which was clearly a transitional one.
Rory McIlroy will be its leader in France but while he said he had no idea who could take over as captainthat Lee Westwood was a candidate.
McIlroy said: “Jeez, I don’t know. I really don’t know. It depends who feels like they are ready for it.
“You’ve got someone like a Lee Westwood, you’ve got Thomas Bjorn, you’ve got Pádraig obviously. He might be trying to go for it. But that would be three Irish captains in a row and I don’t know how that would feel.
“Any one of those guys who are there could do it— we obviously need a captain, we need a leader — but honestly, the culture of the European team of including everyone in the process means it could be any one of a number of guys, I think.”
Bjorn said simply: “Let’s let the dust settle after this one first.”
Both McIlroy and Harrington refused to blame Clarke for the defeat with the Dubliner pointing to the generational shift as the big reason for the loss.
Asked if the 4-0 foursomes loss on the first morning or inferior putting were the keys, Harrington said: “This is a transitional team and for a transitional team coming the States, it was a big ask.
“We needed things to go right for us. We needed to hole that putts during the week and we didn’t.
“Winning or losing a Ryder Cup comes down to a lot of things. But as I say, it was a transitional team and we would have needed things to go for us.
“When you have a team like this, with six new guys who got their Ryder Cup caps this time, we will be stronger for it going forward.”
Clarke wasn’t helped by controversy caused by Danny Willett’s brother and the 4-0 loss in the opening foursomes on Friday proved fatal.
Harrington said: “Yes, it was a tough start on the first morning. To get off to a bad start and be four points down, that’s hard.”
Assessing the final day, Harrington said: “We got off to a good start and the players did everything they could to get some blue on that board and it looked like a possibility at one stage.”
On the 3-1 loss in the fourballs on Saturday afternoon when Martin Kaymer replaced Rafa Cabrera Bello alongside Sergio Garcia and Chris Wood and Matt Fitzpatrick were rested in favour or giving Lee Westwood and Danny Willett another game, Harrington refused to second guess the skipper.
He said: “It is always very fluid, the whole Ryder Cup. There are simple rules that you could apply in the cold light of day but when you get in a team room, every decision has two or three knock on effects and you have to try and put it all together.
“There is no doubt that everyone will look at Darren splitting up Sergio and Rafa but at the time the pairings were put in, certain things were happening on the golf course.
“We were also very aware that it was important in the afternoon to get the confidence of some of the veteran players up for the singles.
“There is plenty of second guessing but no regrets about what went through. Obviously there were other decisions that could have been made and we could have gone a different way, but ultimately there’s no going back.
“Thomas Pieters was obviously an inspired pick. And you are certainly not going to second guess your experienced picks in Westwood and Kaymer now.
“If we knew what match was going to do what, we would all be winning the Lotto.”
McIlroy was in buoyant mood despite the defeat though he did fee the courses set up favoured the Americans.
Targeting a FedEx Cup - Race to Dubai double after some magical play over the last five weeks, he said: “I can take a lot from it and form the last few weeks.
“I made a few tired swings out there today. But I feel like I am on the right track with my putting, the right track with the rest of my game and I just need a few weeks to recharge.
“I’ve won the FedEx so now I want to try to win the Race to Dubai.”
On the set-up that Justin Rose described as being of Pro-Am standard, he said: “If anything, with the position with the Americans found themselves in, it was more beneficial to them.
“If there was a hole with water, the flag was on the other side. It was tough. That first morning against Rickie and Phil, they hit two fairways between them on the whole day and came out on top.
“They hand over the course to the superintendents or the PGA of America on the Monday but it just seemed like bad tee shots weren’t getting punished as much as they should have been. But again, that’s all home advantage. That’s what Ryder Cups are all about.”
Casting his eyes around the media centre, he said: “Look here, it’s all red. Any little advantage you can get in the Ryder Cup to help your team, you have to use it.”
On future European teams, the word No 3 is excited about the possibility of partnering Belgian Thomas Pieters again.
“I’m excited. It was a last minute pick by Darren and Thomas went out there and showed everyone how good he is.
“I hadn’t played with him much before, it wasn’t a planned pairing and we went out and played unbelievable in the fourball.
“Then Darren puts us back out in the foursomes and we are , ‘Fine, let’s go with this’. He’s great. The best partner you could have. It seems natural to him and he is such a laid back guy — like Nicolas Colsaerts four years ago but, no offence to Nicolas Colsaerts, but with a lot more talent.
“I could see when the team was shaping ip with the first timers that the likes of myself, Henrik, Justin, Lee, Martin, we had to step up and be on course leaders.
"We had to make the rookies feel more comfortable, I know a few will feel they didn’t have the greatest first Ryder Cup but at the same time they will have learnt a lot from it. A lot of these rookies will be back in two years’ time and take a lot from this week.”
He gave fellow Ulsterman Clarke top marks for his captaincy too.
“I don’t think Darren could have done anything else. He has been a fantastic captain. We wanted to win this so badly for him. If you could have seen him in the team room all week and the things he was saying and how great an atmosphere he created in all of us. It was fantastic.
“Even in defeat, as you saw there, we were quite jubilant because we’ve had a great week. Regardless of the result on the golf course, we’ll go and have a few beers tonight and enjoy each other’s company and then try to beat the hell out of each other next week.”
McIlroy has three weeks off to recharge his batteries before he reappears for theWGC-HSBC Champions, the Turkish Airlines Open and the DP World Tour Championship.
The week, he admitted, was the most emotionally draining of his career.
“For sure," McIlroy said. "I was running on fumes. Gleneagles, everything that could go right, did go right. Medinah, it was my first Ryder Cup in the US and whiIeI wasn’t a rookie, I didn’t feel as much responsibility on my shoulders.
“But this week, having done what I have done in the game, I tried to lead by example. I won three points and wish it could have been more but I did all that I could.”