Harrington ready for tough task if Stricker captains US

Harrington ready for tough task if Stricker captains US
Steve Stricker

Steve Stricker

Pádraig Harrington will not underestimate no-nonsense Steve Stricker if the Wisconsin native is named as US skipper for the 2020 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits.

The PGA of America is expected to name Jim Furyk's successor shortly with Stricker considered the red-hot favourite to get the job in his home state.

If Stricker is chosen, Harrington knows he will have his work cut out against a player who came back from a mid-career slump to win the PGA Tour's Comeback Player of Year Award two years in a row and spend 12 weeks as world No 2.

"This is a guy who has come back from the driver yips in golf,” Harrington said at November’s Turkish Airlines Open. "This is a guy who has become a world class player a couple of times later on in his career without the firepower and arsenal that other players have. 

"You know when you're going up against a guy like that that he's mentally tough and strong."

While the likes of Matt Kuchar (40), Zach Johnson (42) and David Duval (47) have been mentioned as alternatives with Phil Mickelson (48) and Tiger Woods (43) waiting in the wings, Stricker (51) gave little away at the Sony Open in Honolulu this week.

"It's something that I would be truly honoured and excited to do right there in my home state of Wisconsin and right down the road, couple hours down the road,” said Stricker, who won three times on the PGA Tour Champions last season.

“But no one knows yet for sure. Got to hold off and put it in the [PGA of America’s] hands, and the committee that's making the decision and go from there.”

As a 12-time PGA Tour winner, a three-time Ryder Cup player and captain of the victorious US side in the 2017 Presidents Cup on home soil, he's more than qualified to become the first non-major winner to take the US captaincy.

"I know Steve from playing with him in the US," Harrington said of Stricker. "Solid bloke. Good guy. Tough. Yeah, I think he wouldn't be a man to underestimate." 

Ranked as high as 12th in the world in 1996, Stricker descended into a deep slump, losing his tour card in 2004 and slipping as low as 387th in the world.

But playing on sponsors exemptions after going back to basics, he battled back at the age of 39 to regain his card in 2006,  claiming the PGA Tour's Comeback Player of the Year Award in 2007 and 2008,

"I think he'd be a nice Ryder Cup captain," Harrington added.  "As in, the guy you want to play on the golf course is always a tough guy, but a guy who is very straight and that's Steve Stricker. 

"He's as straight as they come. You know you've got a game when you're playing against him, but there's no messing from his side."

Harrington has yet to name his vice-captains, but 1999 Open champion Paul Lawrie appears unwilling to push his case, having accepted that his chances of the captaincy have now "gone."

"Everyone who has ever played in the Ryder Cup wants to be the captain, and I am no different," the Scot told BBC Scotland. "But it would be unlikely for it to happen for me now."

He was full of praise for Harrington, however, calling his elevation "a brilliant appointment."

"He is a great lad, the hardest-working golfer I have met, next to Vijay Singh," Lawrie said. "So if it is anything to do with effort in preparation then he will be a phenomenal captain."

In amateur golf, Douglas' Peter O'Keeffe was tied for 40th after opening with a two-over 74 in the South American Amateur Championship in Chile, leaving him nine shots behind Argentina's Matteo Fernandez de Oliveira.

Maynooth University’s Ronan Mullarney was joint 54th after a five-over 77 with Lurgan's Annabel Wilson tied for 27th the women’s event after a 76 as Lisburn’s Paula Grant shot 79 to share 38th place at Los Leones in Santiago.

Meanwhile, at the prestigious Australian Master of the Amateurs at Royal Melbourne's West Course,  Kinsale's John Murphy entered last night's final round tied for 28th on seven-over after a third round 77, leaving him 13 shots behind Japan's Keita Nakajima.

Portmarnock's Conor Purcell was two strokes further back in a tie for 39th after a 74 on Wednesday.