No sooner had he holed his birdie putt at the 18th to conclude an Open that had otherwise been below his expectations than Padraig Harrington turned his attention back to the Ryder Cup.
In that context, the week had also been below the captain’s expectations, in terms of anyone making a late run for the team that will be finalised at the BMW PGA Championship in September.
The Irishman had considered the Open the ‘last of the big events played under stress’. In other words, the final event in a setting that would tell him what he needs to know about someone coping with a Ryder Cup. His conclusion? ‘I don’t think anything has changed,’ said the Dubliner.
Padraig Harrington has suggested that there is one place remaining in his Ryder Cup team
Ask him, therefore, how many of the nine automatic qualifiers he considers are now locked in for a spot at Whistling Straits in late September and he goes for as many as eight — ‘Assuming no one gets injured,’ he added. They are: Jon Rahm, Tyrrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood, Rory McIlroy, Viktor Hovland, Matt Fitzpatrick, Lee Westwood and Paul Casey.
The one spot he believes is still up for grabs is the one currently being disputed by Victor Perez from France and Irishman Shane Lowry. As for his three wildcards, Harrington said: ‘I’d say I’ve got six experienced guys under consideration at the moment and three rookies, but it’s very hard on a rookie to make it as a pick. They’d have to do something exceptional.’
Frenchman Victor Perez will be determined to hold on to the last remaining automatic spot
Here is the way Harrington is thinking at the moment regarding the last few spots, following events at Royal St George’s. If Perez holds on to that last automatic spot, then he will pick Lowry, a rookie in name only.
He is playing too well to ignore, and never mind that he and Harrington are close friends. It wouldn’t be favouritism, it would be deserved. He would get a spot with Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia, who have been locked in as two of the picks for weeks now.
What if Lowry overtakes Perez to claim the last automatic spot? That’s when it would become interesting, for it would free up a wildcard.
Shane Lowry of Ireland is in contention to overtake Perez and earn a place in the team
Bob MacIntyre is an option but has work to do if he is to earn a spot as one of the wildcards
Given Harrington’s remarks, it’s clear that Bob MacIntyre would probably have to win somewhere in the next few weeks to have a chance. Similarly, Italian Guido Migliozzi, while Austrian Bernd Wiesberger is a rookie in the Lowry mould, having won eight times in Europe already.
Giving these players hope will be the wretched form of some of the veterans Harrington is talking about. Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose have been two rocks for Europe in Ryder Cups but how could you pick them at present?
‘There’s going to be a lot of second guessing myself over the next few weeks,’ said Harrington. ‘I’m just glad I haven’t got six picks like the Americans. At least with three picks it narrows down the players who think they have a chance.’
If Perez makes it into the team, it would narrow it down all the way to three.