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US turn sights on Harrington

Iain Carter | 15:02 UK time, Monday, 11 August 2008

It would be easy to assume that Nick Faldo was purring with delight as he sat in the CBS commentary booth as the final major of the year came down to a clash between two of the players who will be stars in his team at Valhalla.

And Padraig Harrington's sensational US PGA victory over Sergio Garcia means Europe will have the best active player in the world in their side at next month's Ryder Cup.

The Irishman can't be viewed in any other way after winning the last two majors. Tiger Woods has been away and Harrington has taken advantage, though given the way the Open and PGA Champion closed out his victories, I'm not sure Woods would have denied him had he been there. We'll never know.

What is going to be fascinating is to see the impact of Harrington's success and his elevated status in the game on the European and, more pertinently, American sides.

Harrington's team mates know what they'll get from this great competitor and he will now surely play the role usually occupied for the US by Woods.

This means he will be there to be shot at. "Will he be wearing a target?" wondered an Irish reporting colleague.

Justin Leonard summed up the level of respect Harrington now commands. He said: "To shoot eight under over the final two rounds on that course is almost unimaginable. It was an incredible performance.

"I don't know that he will have a target on his back, but he is the best player at the moment and he provides a challenge we are up for."

Read between the lines and you can see that the Americans know that if they can take points from Harrington they will give their cause a huge boost.

In many respects a win against the Celtic Tiger - like taking a point from the American Tiger - is worth more than the actual point that goes on to the team tally.

It gives momentum, a feeling that has team-mates thinking "if he can beat their best player I can beat the guy I'm playing."

There's no doubt Azinger and the American players and fans are going to be up for this Ryder Cup as they bid to avoid a fourth successive defeat.

"Go captain, bring back the cup, bring back the cup," echoed in the US skipper's ears as he played all four rounds at Oakland Hills.

Boo Weekley, despite being out of contention, used the Ryder Cup as his motivation in carding a final round 66 that sealed his place in the team. That kind of enthusiasm can be infectious.

Equally Faldo will be delighted with the way Justin Rose stuck to his task after the chance of victory fell from his grasp on the back nine of the third round at the PGA.

The Englishman was still able to improve his chances of securing an automatic berth.

The next three weeks are going to provide some great golfing stories as the two sides are finalised - and although everything seems to be going Europe's way I still think the match will prove desperately close.


Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Any momentum they may gain from taking a point off Padraig (which let's face it, is highly unlikely in the first place) shall count for little as they watch their "best player" Mickelson struggle yet again.

    Just look what happened this weekend, not only did Europe find itself now with the best current player in the world in their ranks, but they also got Sergio, now fourth in the rankings booking his place as well, a massive lift to the team. He ensured his place, responding to Nick Faldo's call to get himself qualified automatically. It worked too with Harrington at the open, we wait to see who he gives the order to qualify to next, it's working a treat.

    The americans get Ben Curtis and Boo Weekley... enough said. It could be another real mauling.

    http://pgatourist.blogspot.com/

  • Comment number 2.

    Ben Curtis's name was somehow omitted from the final version here, Iain.

    Thrilled that Harrington won, but might it not have been better for Team Europe if the spoils had been shared with Garcia (or Stenson) winning this time?

    I think youknowwho has proved that, in team play, one icon doth not make a team.

  • Comment number 3.

    Interesting view Iain Carter has regarding Padraig Harrington but please don't unrealistically build him up in the way the US media do with Tiger.

    Yes, his success over the last 13 months is sensational but unlike Tiger he has already demonstrated in previous Ryder Cups that he has an understanding and passion for what it's all about.

    As such he is likely to be a more difficult opponent for the US to take points from than Tiger is for Europe.

    Not a fan off Faldo as a human being but I guess what Harrington, (and Garcia, Stenson, Westwood, Poulter and Rose) have achieved in The Open and USPGA has rightly given him confidence enough to make the comments he has.

    Let's just hope that Monty can find some last minute form to do his talisman role and Europe can look forward to a third 18.5 - 9.5 in a row.

  • Comment number 4.

    For a few months now I've been thinking that this will be an enormously tight Ryder Cup, and also that USA could be stronger without the pressure of the world's greatest in the team; that's kind of what happened to Arsenal (not that Henry is the world's greatest!)

    However, over the last few weeks, watching the two teams take definitive shape, I'm getting more and more excited about the prospect of another European thrashing! It's getting difficult for me to see how the USA can win it, so many top Europeans in superb form! Bring it on, I can't wait, the Ryder Cup is one of my favourite tournaments in sport.

  • Comment number 5.

    I was even more pleased by Sergio sealing his place as he has been an integral part of the last few Ryder Cup wins (if a little disappointed that he cost me a 250 quid win after backing him at 25-1 for the USPGA title!).

    It is also better for Faldo as it frees up one of the picks that would have had to go to Sergio. With Donald now ruled out through injury and Monty in shocking form, surely Poulter and Casey, if they don't sneak in as of right in the next couple of weeks, will get the nod from the captain?

    Any other thoughts on Nick's picks?

  • Comment number 6.


    Casey is showing good form as is Poulter. I'm sure Ian Poulter would be hugely passionate about the Ryder Cup and as such would be a pick of mine.

    I am surprised that Ross Fisher hasn't secured an automatic place. He's had a fine season along with Oliver Wilson.

  • Comment number 7.

    It would have been far better for European golf if Garcia had won the PGA. Two main reasons for that ...

    1. Garcia dislikes Harrington now ... only natural given how this same guy has denied him 2 majors which he should have won. A strained relationship between Europe's top 2 players will be very bad for the side ... remember Woods, Mickelson in 04? ... given that Europe win the RC primarily because of superior team spirit, I think this problem will probably cost them the trophy this time.

    2. Garcia is a superb golfer (considerably better than Harrington) and is the player who really could challenge TW for #1 over the next 5 years or so. People say his putting is suspect, and so it is, but all he really needs is to bag that first major and he would start to dominate. Do you remember how Harrington choked at last year's Open but was lucky enough to get a second chance? ... Garcia just needs something like that. If he can break his duck, there is every chance he could go on and win another 6 or 7. It has to be soon though!

  • Comment number 8.

    I love all this "Garcia is a superb golfer(considerably better Harrington)" type stuff. What do you base this on? Harrington has 3 majors, Sergio has none. Harrington might have choked on the 18th in Carnoustie but Garcia choked his way around the whole course that day. Then Harrington destroyed him in the play-off. And again last sunday Harrington beat the living cr*p out of him on the back nine at Oakland hills. I'd say you might be right about Garcia disliking him. It was written all over his sulky little face on sunday. Harrington lucky? Get a grip sagamix!

  • Comment number 9.

    I agree with Sagamix that Garcia now dislikes Harrington.But this is because of his immature nature.Look at how Charlie Wi and Stenson congratulated Harrington.
    Garcia couldnt even discuss how well Harrington played. He could only whine about how things seem to go for other people and not poor wee me! Grow up Sergio. You blew it with your putt on the 17th.
    As for Harrington choking, Obviously Sagamix knows nothing about golf.
    The chip and Putt on the 18TH after putting 2 balls in the water had to be the best shots played in the Open last year.
    And the chip should have been shot of the yearTo do that under the pressure of thinking you had just blown the open---- outstanding!
    It was the first sign of the truly great player Harrington has now become.

  • Comment number 10.

    As regards Garcia being a better player than Harrington in "Segamax" opinion, his arguement does not stand up.
    First,
    Harrington has 3 majors - Garcia none
    Harrington long regarded as one of the best putters in the world - Garcia !!! belly putter etc, need i say more

    Maybe Garcia should grow up and realise that when he comes to terms with the fact that he is not the second best player in the world (media too) and be gracious in defeat, then he may have something to get on with

  • Comment number 11.

    There to be shot at, but do the Americans have the firepower to down him?

  • Comment number 12.

    I don't accept (as per ballinaman) that Harrington's 3 majors versus Garcia's zero proves that Pod is better than Serge.

    Likewise, I don't rate Paul Lawrie higher than Colin Montgomerie and I don't rate Sandy Lyle as the equal (or even nearly the equal) of Greg Norman.

    I do agree, though, that PH's putting (especially under pressure) is a major factor in his success ... he's miles superior to everyone bar Tiger in that department.

  • Comment number 13.

    my turn, I'd hope Garcia does not bear any grudge against Paddy, it was his fault he lost the tourney and not Paddy's. I think Garcia has matured, and he should be believing that he is on the edge of a major win, he tool the un-official 5th at TPC. I'm not worried about the relationship between him and Paddy in the RC, I'm more worried that Faldo will be a poor captain (wanted to use more choice words!). I'm worries about his Cap'n picks, I want Casey and Poulter to make it on there own merits so that Faldo can pick Monty (paired with Paddy) and Darren Clarke (paired with Lee W). However, Faldo did not pick Mc Ginley for the Seve Trophy thus the tournament was a flop in Ireland due to poor spectator turnout so I'm worried he'll waste his picks.

  • Comment number 14.

    I'm astoundad by the negavativity of many of these comments. Paddy has proved thus far he is a better goldfer than Sergio, more tournamant wins and Majors show this. But lets remember sergio if far younger than Harrington, he choked coming down the stretch a few years ago but at leat he is challanging now, and could go on to be better, but he isn't at the minute. He wasn't disrespectful to Paddy, he is just trying to keep his chin up and try and tell himself that he didn't lose it, Paddy won it, is that not a good way to think? We have always struggled to go out an win individually, but these two player amongst other europeans are now showing they have the talent and can compete with the best on an individual stage, do you really think this takes away there passion for the Ryder cup and Beating the Americans? No chance...... They'll get on like a house on fire and I know who my moneys on!

  • Comment number 15.

    Let's see how much a team player Garcia is when he's not picking up so many points for the team in his more trickey matches during the RC. If he's even half as bad a loser as he has been to Padraig the last couple of times then he won't be great to have around for morale-sake.

    Forgive me if I'm wrong Sagamix, but a 'great' golfer is a combination of several attributes such as talent (which Sergio has plenty of), intelligence, composure etc.

    Padraig is a 'great'. Garcia is talented.

  • Comment number 16.

    This issue of Garcia and Harrington and who is the better golfer has to be seen from the perspective of who has the most belief. It could not be just coincidence or chance that allowed Padraig to win three majors in 13 months. Right now Padraig has the belief and Sergio can learn from that. That puts Padraig in the superior position I think. Failure is the impetus for success. If Sergio is seeing this any other way he will suffer from character problems that will affect his Golf.

 

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