Pádraig Harrington admits he must put his hat in the ring for the 2020 Ryder Cup captaincy or risk missing out.
The Dubiner (46) will return to the scene of his first major win, the 2007Open at Carnoustie, when he plays at the Angus links from July 19-22.
But while he still harbours faint hopes of winning a third Claret Jug, he knows that his Ryder Cup captaincy window is closing rapidly.
As he's unlikely to be competing on the PGA Tour after he uses up his top-50 Career Money exemption next year, he admits that now is the time to stake his claim for the job at Whistling Straits in the US in 29 months' time.
"I'd love to be Ryder Cup captain down the road," Harrington said from New Orleans as he participated in an R&A teleconference to promote The Open.
"But with how I see my game at the moment, putting my name in the ring to be Ryder Cup captain is coming sooner rather than later.
“With my form, I don’t look as though I am going to be playing my way into any team too soon."
He added: “2020 would be good timing for me in terms of where I would be in my career. I'm kind of finished here [in the US] next year.
"I've got All-Time Money winner [exemption] on the US tour next year, and the year 2020 I'd probably be back playing in Europe, which if you were a Ryder Cup captain, you would need to be. The captain being away in the states wouldn’t be a good thing."
JP McManus wants to host at Adare Manor in Limerick in 2026 but that will be too late for Harrington, who would be 55.
“It is too late for that,” he said. "It would be too much of a risk. I would be somewhat out of touch with players by 2026 and there would be a lot of good players who are playing now who would be looking for the captaincy.
“If you wait around, you're creating the risk you will never get the job. So I don't think I will be waiting around for 2026, as much as I would love to be the captain in Ireland."
If he is to become the third Irish captain and follow 2014 skipper Paul McGinley and 2016 captain Darren Clarke, he knows that he must go for it now with the likes of Lee Westwood (45), Ian Poulter (42), Henrik Stenson (42), Sergio Garcia (38) and Justin Rose (37) all waiting for their turn.
Westwood, who failed to win a point in his tenth Ryder Cup at Hazeltine in 2016, has already said he’s keen on doing the job in 2020.
"I'd love to be captain full stop," Harrington said. "I think the risks outweigh the reward of waiting and I think I'd have to try and pitch for captaincy — do you pitch for the captaincy? — or put my name in the ring before that just to reduce [the risk].
"There are a lot of good players who will be looking for the captaincy in four, six and eight years' time."
Now 208th in the world after missing five or seven cuts this year, Harrington knows he just months to make his mind up so the Tour can put the 2020 captain in place a few months after the dust settles on Paris 2018.
“It will all depend on who is available for 2020,” he said. "A lot depends on who makes this team and who thinks they are good enough for 2020. That's where it stands."
Having Rory McIlroy in his corner would certainly do his chances no harm, as McGinley discovered in 2014. But if it comes down to a straight fight with Westwood, there's a very real possibility he could miss out.
Winning The Open for the third time could change everything but while he admits that a "wily old pro" can beat the bombers and work his way to work their way around Carnoustie, he's not getting his hopes up given the mental scar tissue he's built up over the years.
"I still hit it quite a decent distance, so I could keep up with these guys," he said. "But I would hope experience is on my side. Probably at my age, I'm maybe a little bit in the camp of too much experience if you know what I mean — a few skeletons in the closet there.
"I think there's a point in your career where too much experience isn't the best thing either."