Lee Westwood all but anointed Padraig Harrington as Europe’s 2020 Ryder Cup captain yesterday when he publicly ruled himself out of the running and offered himself for the role in Rome in 2022.
The Englishman (45) is believed to have told Harrington several months ago that he would not be putting his name forward for the captaincy at Whistling Straits.
And with a host of players, including Rory McIlroy, backing Harrington, it would be nothing short of a monumental surprise if Keith Pelley, immediate past captains Darren Clarke, Paul McGinley and Thomas Bjorn and a representative of the Players Committee opted to look elsewhere now.
"I won't put my name forward for this one," Westwood said ahead of the British Masters at Walton Heath today, where he will tee it up with the in-form Dubliner and Bjorn for the first two rounds.
"I'd prefer to do it in Rome if possible. I think Padraig is a better candidate for the next one than me and we need to pick the best man for the job.
"He is the right age, and he's still in touch with the players because he's still playing out here."
More importantly, the players believe in his tactical nous, and that will be crucial when Europe take on a wounded US side on a 7,500 yard, faux links by Lake Michigan.
Like McGinley, who said last week there was "no better man" than Harrington to dream up a cunning away strategy if he got the job, Bjorn agrees that as a three-time major winner "it would be difficult to see him not doing it at some stage."
Francesco Molinari, who is reunited with his Ryder Cup team mates Tommy Fleetwood, Thorbjørn Olesen and tournament host Justin Rose this week, is also a Harrington advocate.
"Yeah, I think he would be great," the Italian said. "If it's going to be him, I'm sure he's going to do a great job."
Defending champion Paul Dunne (25), like Shane Lowry, would love nothing better than to make his Ryder Cup debut under Harrington. But like the Offaly man, he knows he must get back to winning form soon.
"Hopefully it sparks up this week and I can get some good mojo going,” said Dunne, who has missed four of his last five cuts and nine from 21 this year.
"I think I had probably a struggle at the start of the season and then I had three months in the middle where I played the best golf I've played ever, and then I've fallen away since then.
"I'm not too far away. Hopefully, I can find a bit of what I had in that April and May time frame.”
Dunne won by three shots from Rory McIlroy at Close House last year, closing with a spectacular 61. But he also has good memories of Walton Heath, having won the Palmer Cup in 2014 and qualified tied 12th for the US Open with rounds of 67 and 68 in the Sectional Qualifier in 2017.
“I'm looking forward to it,” he said. “It's a course that I know relatively well. I've played a few amateur events here, the U.S. Open qualifying. I know they've moved the course around a little bit, but it's a course I like. I've obviously got a great pairing tomorrow with Justin and Matt [Wallace], so hopefully I can rekindle a little bit of form like I did last year and do it again.”
He’s looking forward to playing with Rose, who he beat in the Hero Challenge on Tuesday, and hopes for plenty of support.
“Any time an Irishman can win on British soil is a good thing,” he said. “We had quite a lot there the last day last year, as well. Obviously with this being so close to London, I'm assuming a lot of people will turn up, so hopefully I can give them something to cheer about, especially since Paddy is in the field.”
Seamus Power did not make the 78-player field for the PGA Tour’s $7 million CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur, but Michael Hoey is the lone Irish player at the Challenge Tour’s €350,00 Hainan Open in China.
Just €14,000 outside the top 15 in the Road to Ras Al Khaimah rankings heading into the third last event of the season, 21st ranked Hoey will be seeking the €47,539 top prize.
Shane Ross details Ryder Cup meeting in Paris
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross, responded yesterday to a written question from Labour TD Alan Kelly about his recent trip to Paris for a meeting with European Tour officials on the Ryder Cup and Ireland’s bid to stage the event in 2026, when JP McManus’ Adare Manor is keen to host.
Alan Kelly (Tipperary, Labour)
217. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when the decision was made to attend the 2018 Ryder Cup; the persons who travelled to the event; the date on which flights and hotels were booked; the cost of the trip by cost; the persons he met with; the location in which he met with Ryder Cup officials; when he met with the officials; the length of time he met them for; the location in which he met with European Ryder Cup officials; and the length of time he met them for. [40505/18]
Shane Ross (Dublin Rathdown, Independent)
The 2018 Ryder Cup is a three day golf tournament organised by one of the governing bodies for golf in Europe, the European Tour. The European Tour contacted the Department in late August and early September to inquire if either Minister Griffin or I would be interested in attending the event. In the normal course, a Minister would attend significant international sporting events where Irish athletes or sports people are involved. Ireland's involvement in the 2018 Ryder Cup included one player and two Vice-Captains. However, neither I nor Minister Griffin were available to attend due to other commitments. Consequently, both Minister Griffin and I indicated to the European Tour that we would not be in a position to attend. Rather, given the Irish involvement in the European Team, consideration would be given to attendance by officials.
Subsequently, the European Tour conveyed their wish to discuss the hosting of a future Ryder Cup in Ireland and sought a meeting to discuss same with Ministers and officials. The European Tour requested that the meeting would be held at Le Golf National in Paris on one of the three days of the Ryder Cup.
The hosting of a Ryder Cup gives rise to considerable economic value in the host country. Deloitte have reported on the value to the Irish economy of the 2006 Ryder Cup. The direct economic value was estimated to be more than €140m and the full impact was reported to be around €240m. Similarly, the value to the Scottish and Welsh economies, from the 2014 and 2010 events respectively, have been reported and are substantial.
Given the potential value of hosting a future Ryder Cup in Ireland, I reconsidered the European Tour's request for a meeting. On 26 September, I decided that I would travel out to Paris to meet with the European Tour and I cancelled my prior commitments for the day of the meeting, i.e. Sunday, 30 September. I, along with the Secretary General of my Department, the Assistant Secretary with responsibility for tourism and sport and my Special Advisor, travelled to Paris and arrived in Paris on the evening of 29 September.
Flights for me and my Special Advisor were booked on 26 September and flight bookings for the Secretary General and Assistant Secretary were made on 21 September. The total cost of flights was €1,989.70. No costs were incurred for accommodation as this was provided by the European Tour.
Discussions with the European Tour began at a meeting in a pavilion at 11.30 a.m. at Le Golf National. Discussions continued with a viewing of the event infrastructure and facilities, followed by a second meeting at approximately 2 p.m. on Sunday 30 September. The European Tour was represented by Mr. David Williams, Chairman of the European Tour, Mr. Keith Pelley, CEO of the European Tour, Mr. Guy Kinnings, European Tour Deputy CEO, Mr. Richard Hills, Ryder Cup Director, and Mr. Paul McGinley. Mr. McGinley is a former Ryder Cup Captain and also a member of the European Tour Board.