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Harrington named European Ryder Cup captain

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Harrington named European Ryder Cup captain
11:09 AM ET

  • Bob HarigESPN Senior Writer

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    • Senior golf writer for ESPN.com
    • Covered golf for more than 20 years
    • Earned Evans Scholarship to attend Indiana University

Padraig Harrington was named European Ryder Cup captain on Tuesday, pledging to do all he can to continue the high level of success the team has enjoyed through his playing career.

Harrington, 47, a three-time major winner who played on six European teams, takes over for Thomas Bjorn, who oversaw a rousing success in France in September when Europe defeated the Americans 16½ to 9½, a seventh victory in the last 10 Ryder Cups.

The 2020 Ryder Cup will be played at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, site of three PGA Championships.

“There seems to be a natural progression,” Harrington said during a news conference at European Tour headquarters near London. “It seems to be the right time and place for me in my career. But just because it seems like my turn, it’s something I thought long and hard about. Was it the right time?

“I realize it’s good timing in my career, but I always realize it’s probably the best setting for the team, going to the U.S. having me the captain at this time. When I talked to the other players and potential captains going forward, it seemed to fit nicely that I go and do the away match.”

Harrington, of Ireland, was a vice captain on the past three European teams, victories at Gleneagles in 2014 and Le Golf National in 2018 and a loss at Hazeltine in 2016.

The winner of The Open in 2007 at Carnoustie, The Open in 2008 at Royal Birkdale and the 2008 PGA Championship at Oakland Hills, Harrington went 9-13-3 in six consecutive appearances for Europe from 1999 through 2010, playing on four winning teams. He has 15 European Tour victories and six on the PGA Tour.

Almost from the time the last putt dropped at the Ryder Cup in France, Harrington was deemed the likely pick for 2020. England’s Lee Westwood would have been another contender, but he made it known publicly that he preferred to wait for the 2022 Ryder Cup in Rome.

And Harrington seemingly had no naysayers among the players.

“I am very encouraged by the support I have received from the players,” he said. “The current players who are going to play under me have been very supportive. I know they want continuity. Their confidence in me I feel will be well placed. It is very important that I have that feeling of support because I have to be a confident captain as much as need 12 confident players.”

Despite considerable European success, Harrington said 2020 is a new match, a new venue, and the pressure to continue Europe’s winning ways is real.

“It’s an away match, and I have to be part of this and try to find an edge to try and get the most out of their abilities and hopefully get a win,” Harrington said. “It’s a different league, a different level. I really feel conscious that I have to find that edge. And I don’t take it lightly. It’s something I will take on over the next 18 months.”

Harrington said he would not have taken the job if the event was going to a course similar to Hazeltine, where the U.S won 17-11 in 2016.

“I know it’s tough to win in the States,” Harrington said. “If we were coming back to Hazeltine it would be another question of my appetite to go there. I strongly looked at the fact that we are going to a golf course that is at least European style. I want to be a winning captain.”

Whistling Straits has a links-style look with the holes bordering Lake Michigan north of Milwaukee.

“Home advantage is a huge part of it, there’s no doubt about it,” Harrington said. “We know both sides are bringing in statisticians to help set up the golf course. Thankfully we are going to Whistling Straits which is just a strong golf course. I’m sure there’s going to be a certain edge to it but look it’s a big strong golf course and we should all know what we are getting. Going to a course like Hazeltine, set up (with) fast greens, open golf course, birdie fest … that’s a rough job to take on.

“Selfishly I looked at this and made sure I’m looking at a golf course at least I feel. … I know it’s an uphill struggle to beat the U.S. in the U.S. but at least I know it’s a good golf course. We’ve had good performances from Europeans on that golf course over the years.”

The U.S. is expected to name its 2020 captain sometime this spring. Steve Stricker, who served as a vice captain for the past three Ryder Cups and was the 2017 U.S. Presidents Cup captain, is the leading contender.

ESPN’s Jamie Braidwood contributed to this report.

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